When a $10.4 million supportive housing project for the homeless was announced in Campbell River, it wasn’t completely popular with local residents.
“Neighbours were concerned, businesses in the area too, and a lot was mentioned about the neighbouring schools in the area,” said Kristi Schwanicke, program manager with the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, which oversees the operations of the facility called Q’waxsem Place.
But just up the road, a student at Carihi Secondary School felt the community should be more welcoming.
“I thought it was quite important because I heard about lots of the conflict that came with the construction of the building and I thought it was very important to show the community’s support,” said Grade 12 student Trent Perras.
So he and over 300 other students signed a welcome poster that is now hanging in the front lobby of the Q’waxsem Place.
I don’t think that has been seen a lot in our community in general so just to know that the community and the school are supporting this and want to make a change is something unbelievable,” added fellow Grade 12 student Heidi Schulte.
Rebecca Moerike, who had been homeless in Campbell River for the last six years, now calls the brand new 50-unit building on Dogwood Street home.
“For these kids to do that it made me feel wonderful, really really welcoming,” said Moerike, reacting to the kind-hearted gesture.
“It’s just so heartwarming to know our students who are also our neighbours are so conscious about welcoming folks to the neighbourhood,” said Schwanicke.
She says the poster might seem like a simple gesture but it is not.
Many of the people who live at Q’waxsem Place have never had a neighbourhood to call their own and just to know that everyone isn’t against them living there is an emotional experience.
“Nobody wanted us and now they do and it’s just nice,” said Moerike, as tears filled her eyes.