UPDATED: Housing First folds in Kings County

Kirk Starratt
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The Housing First Association of Kings County’s four remaining board members, including treasurer Duska Poirier, secretary Kimberly Smith and chairwoman Rebekah Wetmore, as well as Penni Burrell, not pictured, resigned at the March 27 annual general meeting.

The Housing First Association of Kings County has ceased to exist.

At the annual general meeting March 27, all four remaining volunteer board members - chairwoman Rebekah Wetmore, treasurer Duska Poirier, secretary Kimberly Smith and Penni Burrell – did not re-offer.

Wetmore said the board is “exhausted” and, if there was an agreement for Housing First to continue, they would stay on to help with the transition to a new board.

“Just because we’re stepping down doesn’t mean we’re walking out the door,” Smith added.

Following a discussion of next steps, the floor was opened to members in attendance to step forward to form an interim board. Association bylaws stipulate that there must be a five-member board.

“We have three people who stepped up but that’s not enough,” said Debbie Reimer, executive director of the Kids Action Program. Reimer served as chairwoman for the meeting.

“My sense is the board is dissolving here tonight.”

Only Fred Williams, Judoth Aro and Merrill Ward offered to serve. Ward suggested that an interim board could serve for a month; enough time to hold meetings to determine a business plan for the association and perhaps secure funding.

Poirier reported that, as of the following day, the association would have only $3,300 left in the bank. A motion carried to settle expenses with outgoing housing specialist Lia Renaud, whose contract expired March 28. The association will return approximately $655 in remaining municipal funding to the County of Kings and the rest of the money, donations made to Housing First, will be donated to the CMHA’s Haelen House project.

There were approximately a dozen members present for the meeting, although Burrell reported that about 170 people had been invited.

Read more about Housing First here.

'The focus got lost'

County Coun. Emma VanRooyen, who was once involved with Housing First but resigned after being elected to council in 2012, said she believes “the focus got lost.” She said there “is absolutely still a need” to have an organization helping others with front-line work relating to affordable housing.

“I see that as work that needs to be done,” she said. “I’d hate to see all this evaporate.”

Ward, a developer and construction contractor, said he was instrumental in getting Housing First off the ground, but “it got so far off track that the original intent was lost.” The association’s was supposed to be a facilitator, working in conjunction with organizations involved with people experiencing housing needs.

Ward said he offered to “lay a project in the lap” of Housing First, but “it was turned down.” He said another project in Kingston involving affordable housing for seniors “wasn’t followed up on.”

He said the association “started to go to pieces” when some people in the community felt VanRooyen had a conflict serving with Housing First and as a councillor. He said she was “forced to resign,” in his opinion.

“We’d be so much further ahead today if she wasn’t forced to leave,” Ward said.

VanRooyen thanked Ward for his strong vote of confidence.

Aro said Housing First had “a real communication gap.” She was part of the policy committee formed from the association’s May 2013 forum and said they met “faithfully.”

“We tried very hard to do something,” she said. “There are people who care about affordable housing who want to do something.”

 

Housing First reaction

Ward called the handling of ending Housing First “terrible” and worries it will make it “almost impossible” for other affordable housing organizations to secure municipal funding in the future.

“After the board resigned, they were still making motions and voting on things,” Ward said. “How can that happen?”

He said Housing First was a registered not-for-profit entity and he doesn’t believe closing it out is as easy, legally, as giving the remaining money away and saying it’s over. Ward said about $115,000 in municipal and federal tax money went “down the tubes” with no tangible help being provided to people with affordable housing needs.

Former secretary Kimberly Smith said there was consensus that there were not enough people willing to keep the organization going even though there were a number present who felt that the work started by Housing First needed to continue in some way.

“Even though we folded a non-profit organization last night, there is still important work to do in our community,” Smith said.

He said hopefully a YouTube video   would inspire people to form a real action plan and move forward.

 

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Earlier story:

The Housing First Association of Kings County will cease to exist.  

At the annual general meeting at the County of Kings municipal complex in Kentville on March 27, all four remaining volunteer board members said they would not re-offer. They include chairwoman Rebekah Wetmore, treasurer Duska Poirier, secretary Kimberly Smith and Penni Burrell.  

Following a discussion of next steps, the floor was opened to members in attendance to step forward to form an interim board. Association bylaws stipulate there must be a five-member board.  

"We have three people who stepped up but that's not enough," said Debbie Reimer, executive director of the Kids Action Program. Reimer served as chairwoman for the Housing First general meeting.  

 

Only Fred Williams, Judoth Aro and Merrill Ward offered to serve. The suggestion was that an interim board could serve for a month, enough time to hold meetings to determine a business plan for the association and perhaps secure funding.  

Poirier reported that, as of the following day, the association would have only $3,300 left in the bank.  

A motion carried to settle expenses with outgoing  housing specialist Lia Renaud, whose contract expires March 28. The association will return approximately $655 in remaining municipal funding to the County of Kings and the rest of the money, donations made to Housing First, will be donated to the CMHA's Haelen House project.  

Smith had suggested a severance package for Renaud, an idea supported by several of about a dozen members in attendance. However, Renaud pointed out that the "missing link" for the association is that "people need help."   "I don't want any money from this organization," she said.   More to come.

Organizations: Housing First Association, Haelen House

Geographic location: Kings, Kentville

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Recent comments

  • OV2
    April 01, 2014 - 07:30

    Well, I told you so. From day one. Good people hurt and their reputations damaged. $100,000.00 plus gone. Where? Surely you can figure this out this time! Where did the money go with Destination Southwest Nova?? Follow the dots people......I told KC Council on day one. I told the feds. Now we have been ripped off again. Maybe you should listen! Here is another hint: Have close look at the business dealings with the HKBDC, especially in Feburary of last year. That story isn't over yet......but the answer is the same. Oh yes, and someone will damn me for telling the truth...again!

  • Kimberly Smith
    March 31, 2014 - 13:54

    Here is the official report from the chair and AGM minutes for any who care to know. http://www.housingfirstkc.ca/2/post/2014/03/report-from-chair-and-minutes-of-2014-agm.html