Prince Edward County Council has declined a request to grant both Kate’s Rest Supportive Housing Community and the Moses Hudgin Log House designation as projects of community interest after receiving a report from the Community Services, Programs and Initiatives Department recommending they do so. The recommendation and report were passed as a Bailey/Roberts motion as Tuesday’s Regular Council meeting.
Council had received a report from the Community Services, Programs and Initiatives Department recommending that council refrain from designating either project as being one of community interest.
The report stated that there might be more helpful financial avenues for either project at this time and that municipal support would be premature for both, given their respective situations.
Kate’s Rest is a supported living community on Big Island, providing a home for 19 resident facings various social and economic challenges.
The project is funded from a pool of residents’ pension, disability and social security benefits. As noted in the staff report, this pool of funding is barely enough to finance the operations at Kate’s Rest.
Recognition as a project of community interest was sought in order to help attraction donations and offset operational shortfalls, while helping to fund capital improvements and potentially create new employment opportunities for residents.
Moses Hudgin Log House is a historic log cabin and property that is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Though owned by the NCC, the project is also supported by the South Shore Joint Initiative and Friends of Moses Hudgin. They had hoped to attract donations in order to help finance renovations and renewal of the antiquated building.
As Ryan Brough, Director of Kate’s Rest Foundation stated, the the stream of money currently in use by Kate’s Rest only covers daily expenses, and with a recent inspection from bylaw officials, there are several remedial renovations that need to be put in place in order for the community to meet bylaw requirements.
“We don’t have the financial situation to cover the expenses that come with the costs of getting this place up to bylaw standard. That’s partly why we’re asking for this designation,” explained Brough.
Brian Hart spoke to the reciprocal relationship between Kate’s Rest and the municipality, saying the County’s support of such an endeavour would enrich not only that small community, but the community at large.
“We as a municipality are impoverished if we continue to exclude them and others like them,” said Hart. “Don’t overlook this opportunity for the County to be enriched by embracing our small community. We, as you do,want to help create jobs, bring to the county new farmers and help to address local food security.”
Dr. Michael Shannon, former Deputy Surgeon General also spoke to the benefit of the Kate’s Rest and confirmed to council that there should be no concern about health and safety within the community as it pertains to sanitation or other issues.
“There have been concerns expressed by some that there may be health and safety issues regarding this community,” said Shannon. “I want to state, for the record, that definitively there’s nothing in the way of sanitation or hygiene practices that would constitute a risk to the health and safety of the community, the residents here or the community at large. I can say this having been associated with the community for over ten years now. It is superbly managed.”
Shannon also pointed to noteworthy academic interest in the community from several universities and explained that the project of interest designation would be not to provide public funds but to open the floodgates so that targeted donations can flow into Kate’s Rest.
“The request to the municipality is not to provide public funds to this facility but rather, by virtue of the designation, to provide a conduit by which designated or targeted donations can be transmitted to the community for specific purposes,” Shannon explained.
“I don’t see this proposal as constituting a liability or risk to the County,” he added.
Shannon further added that the project has already been endorsed by several universities, one being Western University, who have been studying the community in hopes of applying the the same principles to communities elsewhere.
Councillor Jamie Forrester inquired as to how the endorsement from universities worked.
“You said you were endorsed by several universities,” said Forrester. “How does that work? Has there been any oversight?”
Shannon explained that as the concept of Kate’s Rest is applied to projects in other communities, there will be hands on involvement with several faculty members and graduate students.
“The reports and papers (from this project) have been presented at national and international convention,” explained Shannon. “The oversight, in this case, has nothing to do with the day to day management, but rather the planning and development of new approaches and ideas that might enhance it and make it a little bit more applicable to other communities.”
Councillor Bill Roberts expressed support for Kate’s Rest, stating affordable housing projects should be council’s top priority, while also pointing out some inaccuracies in the report.
“It states in the staff report that when a municipality designates a project of community interest, the outcome of the project must serve the entire community-as if that’s something Kate’s Rest is deficient in,” stated Roberts. “I believe that providing shelter and affordable housing is our number one priority or pretty close. Not only does Kate’s Rest come with addressing affordable housing for people who have been marginalized and in many ways disregarded, but it comes with getting them jobs, apprenticeships, getting their high school diploma and going to college, it provides them with self confidence and support and appreciation for the environment. It even gets them dental and medical attention and literally saves lives. I disagree that this is not a project of community interest and is somehow deficient in these categories.”
Roberts also mentioned there was an overwhelming number of letters of support for the initiative from members of the broader Prince Edward County community, including from a former OPP officer and the Women’s Institute in Demorestville.
As well, Roberts pointed out that an assertion made in the report that Kate’s Rest had not pursued any provincial or federal funding was inaccurate.
“Kate’s Rest has sought the support of Service Canada, they’ve gone through federal programs such as the Homeless Partnering Strategy and the Reaching Home Program,” stated Roberts. “They’ve gone on the local level to United Way and also to provincial sources but they’re consistently told there’s no money available for that kind of community.”
Ultimately though council declined to designate Kate’s Rest a project of community interest, they did decide to write a letter of support to be sent to the Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS).