Nelson CARES Society is committed to providing safe, stable and affordable housing. This includes housing for
people leaving homelessness and those who have difficulty maintaining their housing due to chronic illness,
mental health challenges, and/or substance use.
To help Ward Street Place (WSP) tenants maintain their housing, Nelson CARES created Ready for Home. This
program offers wrap-around support to individuals who are often coping with challenges to maintain their
housing. The goal of this program is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness by working one-on-one to support
individuals while in a safe and stable housing environment. WSP has an increasing number of senior and
palliative individuals that live in the building with many on the waiting list also falling into that demographic.
The internationally acclaimed ‘Housing First’ model has shown that re-entry into homelessness diminishes
significantly for people who are able to stay housed and supported for just two years, and mental and physical
health outcomes are dramatically improved. The ‘Housing First’ model is simple; first, provide safe, stable,
affordable housing like Ward Street Place and second, provide one-on-one supports like Ready for Home.
Unfortunately, there is very little government funding for this crucial second part.
First piloted by Nelson CARES in January 2016 at Ward Street Place and Lakeside Place, the Ready for Home
program assessed its resident’s greatest challenges and the biggest threats to remaining housed. During this
time, Nelson CARES offered assistance to residents who had been chronically or episodically homeless.
During this pilot, a trained Home Support Worker (HSW) provided services to tenants, resulting in a dramatic
50% reduction of interactions with the Nelson Police Department compared to the previous year. For residents
with chronic health diseases and disorders, we found that having an advocate in the form of a Home Support
Worker gave a more appropriate and effective outcome with health professionals. The HSW would help with
scheduling and attending appointments, following treatment orders, and ensuring the client has agency in
their treatment options and understands their diagnosis and possible outcomes. Nelson CARES staff
additionally organized residential group activities to address social isolation, and the high degree of
participation helped foster a new sense of community within each building.
Kerry Rae was in the position of Home Support Working at Ward Street Place in 2016 when the Ready for
Home program was first piloted. She has this to say about her experience with Ready for Home now “In the
last four years since I was in this position, there is a lot more stability for the folks using the services, there are
fewer crisis events, people are more connected, they are reaching out when they struggle, it is needed more
for mental health concerns and for new people moving into the building, people are a lot more stable, people
are eating better, they are maintaining their housing, there are fewer calls to emergency services.”
The Ready for Home program principles include: maintaining safe and affordable housing, ensuring food
security for residents, assisting with access to transportation, life skills development, increasing access to
income and health services, building a positive self-image and maintaining social inclusion.
When asked about what might happen to the residents if these supports were not there Kerry Rae stated “A
lot of times people would lose their housing. They would get overwhelmed and everything would fall apart.
They wouldn’t attend their doctor appointments, they couldn’t maintain personal relationships of any kind,
often they would be evicted or chose to go back to the streets.”
As there is no government funding for this crucial work, Nelson CARES supports this program through annual
fundraising events such as Coldest Night of the Year and generous donations from the community.
Since 2012 Ward Street Place has undergone major upgrades to this historic building. Including a complete
redo of the building’s electrical, installation of a fire suppression system and increased livability within the
building especially in the individual rental units. This year Nelson CARES was the recipient of the City of
Nelson’s Heritage Award for this work, the award included a $1,000 honorarium which the Nelson CARES
board and staff have elected to use to seed the Ward Basics Fund. This fund assists tenants in crisis and helps with groceries, medications, and other basic needs. The public can donate to this fund by heading to
Courtesy of Nelson Star 2022-01-