Coins for Change has helped the most vulnerable find housing in the Trail community since the first event in 2014.
Money raised during the one-night sleep-under-the-bridge fundraiser has assisted hundreds of men, women and families set up households with emergency funding for first month rent and incidentals like groceries and various sundries.
Funding to help cover those one-off needs is not available through government agencies, which is the incentive behind sleeping under the stars in exchange for pledges to Coins for Change.
This year the fundraiser is slated for Friday from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. at the Victoria Street Bridge and for a fourth year, all proceeds are for the Getting to Home program.
Besides raising money, Coins for Change has an inherent goal of raising awareness about the reality of homelessness in the Trail area.
Two local advocates – Trail Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson and Sheila Adcock – are taking pledges for a fourth straight year because they say the need is not only real, it is constantly growing.
“People need help and it’s a year round concern,” says Gattafoni Robinson. “The focus of this event is to bring people up to date with what is going on in our communities,” she added.
“We are a great region and we have to help … and yes, homelessness is happening in a lot of places, but I think that people have to face reality that this is also happening in our town.”
Adcock works with the area’s most vulnerable on a daily basis in her position as program coordinator for (CDS) Career Development Services in downtown Trail. CDS runs Getting to Home, a social enterprise that helps individuals who are desperate to find a place in the community but are unable to create stability due to unstable housing.
CDS provides management services for absentee landlords and develops units of safe housing at rental rates that fall within the shelter allowance limits for employment and disability assistance recipients.
“The need is huge right now because of the fact that rental stock is really low,” Adcock told the Trail Times. “Rentals in Castlegar and Nelson are zero, so we are getting a lot of influx.”
With so few places available for rent, anyone in need of housing is at the mercy of prospective landlords.
“So they are looking to raise the rents, for a single occupancy unit to $750 a month,” she explained. “And our guys are on disability or low income, they only get $1,000 a month and can’t afford that kind of thing, plus utilities.”
She says older rental stock has been sold, past landlords who owned a lot of realty are selling units off and first time property owners are buying them up.
“That’s all great, but the rental stock is really shrinking,” Adcock said. “We’ve got a long list of people looking for rentals, so we are trying to build and explore options in the community but a lot of the landlords are saying they can get more (elsewhere).”
Adcock mentioned one situation that depicts the state of the local rental market.
“I talked with one landlord and he had a minimum of 25 people coming to look for a one bedroom apartment that was $750 plus utilities,” she shared. “Our guys can’t even compete – nor can anyone working a minimum wage or on disability or limited income.”
She says the organization has identified the possibility of cluster housing for some individuals with complex needs that require specialized support – but nothing has been secured.
“It’s pretty dire right now, we have so many on our list,” Adcock continued. “(Our clients) are very vulnerable and get taken advantage of in the community.”
She acknowledged a few local affordable housing units in Trail, but noted their purpose is to accommodate fixed income seniors and low income families.
“Whereas the people we support have some pretty complex needs so they don’t rent to them,” Adcock said. “But they are also members of our community, most were born and raised here, their families are here, and they deserve a nice place to live as well.”
She concluded,”But a lot of them are very vulnerable, so we are trying to figure out how can we serve this population that is very much deserving of a nice place to rent and on the flipside, help them learn to be good tenants.”
This year’s Coins for Change fundraising goal is $15,000.
For information to pledge and donate to the cause, contact CDS at 250.364.1104.