On February 25, people will take to the streets of downtown Nelson to increase awareness about homelessness in the community and raise funds to help continue renovations at Ward Street Place. There are two, five and 10 kilometre walks which give participants the opportunity to experience a few hours outside in the cold, a hint of what it might be like to be homeless.
Nelson CARES operates Ward Street Place, a unique commercial and residential building with 45 single-occupancy rooms and three apartments. Maintaining it as affordable housing includes making improvements to the 103-year-old building. Lisa Mcgeady, campaign coordinator says the Room to Live campaign includes a total redevelopment of $2.9 million and $90,000 still needs to be raised.
“We need to preserve this stock of safe and affordable housing for another half century,” she says.
Selkirk College Nursing Program third-year students Emma Lesnik and Morgan Schultz are helping organize this event as part of their hands-on learning. Housing is a critical component, a “social determinant of health,” and in this case, these learning nurses consider the community their patient.
“Nelson is facing a housing crisis and those most vulnerable are hit the hardest,” says Lesnik. “This initiative alleviates some of that pressure. To think of having no home is a scary thought.”
The students are engaged in a conversation with the community about the housing crisis and are eager to break down myths about homelessness.
“Social awareness is significant,” says Schultz. “People need to understand that homeless people aren’t lazy and just not helping themselves. There are often underlying factors like mental health, disability or trauma.”
Mcgeady welcomes the support provided by nursing students. This is the third year that Selkirk College Nursing Program students have been part of the cooperative fundraising effort as they complete their community practice component.
“This is an event that requires a lot of volunteer time and commitment. The nursing students assist in pretty much every aspect of the event and become the right arm of the event coordinator,” she says.
Real Stories to Learn From
Mcgeady is confident the learning experience had by students through the Coldest Night event is meaningful.
“The students have an opportunity to engage with the community in a different way than they would in other rotations,” says Mcgeady. “They hear real stories of some of the tenants and clients of Nelson CARES. It is important for nurses to not only understand the issues, but to work towards raising awareness that these issues impact the health of people in our community which, in turn, affects us all.”
Schultz valued hearing these personal stories. A resident shared how a health problem ended up costing him his job and then his home.
“This kind of cascade of events can happen to anyone, catch anyone off guard,” she says.
Not only are Selkirk College Nursing Program students on board, college employees have joined the effort as well. Currently, there are four teams of 37 walkers who have raised $2,767 putting Selkirk at the top of the leader board for colleges and schools across Canada that are participating. Selkirk College employee and Coldest Night Team and Walker Recruitment volunteer Kate Nott is proud to be part of such community effort.
“This February, Selkirk College wants to help our community by hitting the streets and walking in support of an organization doing much-needed work that sometimes goes unseen. Our employees and students are rallying behind this because together we can make a difference and show we care,” says Nott.
Are you interested in participating? Join now by contacting Kate Nott at CNOY@nelsoncares.ca or 250.551.0417.