An artist’s rendition of the proposed Freedom House at Rutland Road and McCurdy Road in Kelowna.—contributed

Fundraising for Freedom House gets $10,000 boost

Plans for recovery program apartment building in Kelowna moving ahead

The $3 million fundraising effort to help pay for a new residential building to house graduates of a Kelowna alcohol and substance recovery program is $10,000 closer to its goal.

The Frank J. Flaman Foundation, through its Rocky Mountain Fitness Store in Kelowna, made the donation to Freedom House Wednesday. Freedom House is slated for the corner of Rutland Road and McCurdy Road and is being built by Freedom’s Door, the organization that runs the multi-stage recovery program the residents will graduate from. Freedom House will house 40 men.

“This project touches home for a few of us,” said Rocky Mountain branch manager Rob Spencer in making the donation. “We’d really like to help open (Freedom House’s) doors.”

Tom Smithwick, with Freedom’s Door, said a sizable donation such as the one received Wednesday means a lot because it shows the community cares and wants to help.

“It makes your day when know there are other people out there who care about what you care about,” said Smithwick.

And while the store threw out a challenge to other city businesses to donate to the project—which will cost a total of $9 million—Smithwick joked he is wiling to “do almost anything” to raise money to help get Freedom House built.

Meanwhile, Freedom’s Door is awaiting word about a $4 million B.C. Housing grant from the province for the project.

Smithwick said he is confident the grant will be approved and that will go a long way towards helping fund the 40-unit mixed-use apartment building. At this point, Freedom’s door has raised just over $2 million for the project.

The controversial building—the subject of a six-hour, packed public hearing at city hall in September—will feature residential apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the four-storey building and commercial units, offices and a meeting room for the Knights of Columbus on the first floor.

Construction is slated to start next year and be complete by the spring of 2020.

At the public hearing, opposition was voiced by many residents who live in the area, concerned about just who would live in Freedom House and how it would be run. But it was also supported by many who turned out at the public hearing as well.

Smithwick said while the residents will be graduates of Freedom Door’s recovery program—clean and sober men who have already gone through recovery—there will also be a number of strict measures in place concerning the running of the building once it is open.

It will be a “dry” facility—meaning no drugs or alcohol will be allowed—will have its doors locked at 10 p.m. and will have round-the-clock supervision. Smithwick added the men who will live there will also be the most stringent in making sure the rules are followed.

“They know that one person could mess it up for everyone,” he said following the public hearing.

Currently, detailed design of the building is proceeding, preparations are being made for a major fundraising campaign to secure the remaining $3 million (pending the B.C. Housing grant) and a project described as a major event, the likes of which the city has never seen, is being planned for next year as part of the fundraising effort.

Meanwhile, the work of Freedom’s Door also continues—providing help for the hundreds of men battling alcohol and drug addiction who have passed through its program.

Freedom’s Door already operates five separate smaller houses where different stages of recovery service are offered.

With a waiting list, Smithwick said the need to provide housing for graduates of the program is great so more men can get help at the front end of the recovery process.

Following the public hearing, Smithwick conceded there is a need to reach out to the community and assure area residents Freedom House will be be a positive addition to the neighbourhood. He said he plans to do that in the new year but wants to give it a little time first.

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