Nearly 20 years ago, Pastor Jim Reimer realized he needed to offer more than just a hot meal to those in need.
In 2002, Reimer started the hot lunch program Our Daily Bread out of the Kootenay Christian Fellowship’s church at 520 Falls St. Even though the kitchen endures and serves up to 70 people each day, Reimer saw early on that Nelson’s most vulnerable residents also needed safe, clean shelter.
“I said, ‘You know what, this isn’t enough.’ It’s good to give people food, but if they’ve got no place to sleep?”
Reimer and the SHARE Housing Initiative Society cut the ribbon Friday on Herridge Place, an $11-million, 39-unit affordable housing development for renters who are employed but can’t find housing.
Renters pay 30 per cent of their pre-tax income, which is the max amount defined as affordable by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. In return, they get to live in the new building overlooking Highway 3A in a housing-starved city that for several years has reported zero vacancies.
“We’ve got people moving in here who are sleeping in cars … because they have no place to live,” said Reimer. “People need food, but also need just a safe place where there’s a locked door, a bathroom and a bed.”
That turned out to be easier said than done.
Reimer had previously sought to purchase the Savoy Hotel on Falls Street, but in 2011 was advised by BC Housing that the project wasn’t feasible due to the high cost of renovations.
He changed plans in 2012, opting instead for a new building that would be constructed on a parking lot next to the church. But that faced further obstacles in 2016 when Nelson city council voted against a request for up to $700,000 in financial and non-financial support. That same year, SHARE Housing was denied funding by BC Housing, which in turn awarded $6.3 million to one of two new affordable housing developments pitched by Nelson CARES.
Reimer had to wait two more years for his breakthrough when the city approved two bylaw variances for access and parking to the property. That opened the door to BC Housing funding, and Herridge Place broke ground in May 2020.
The building isn’t quite complete. Reimer said units still need heat and air conditioning installed, but that tenants will be able to move in as of Oct. 1.
“When I see people on this balcony moving in,” he said, “it’s going to be the greatest day of my life.”
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