A fundraising campaign is being launched in coming weeks to assist with the cost of renovating new facilities for the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
“We are recognizing that we need more space. We are bursting at the seams,” said Susan Henderson, executive director of the Colchester East Hants branch.
The branch currently operates out of two separate spaces, with its administrative “hub”, Friendship Club and some programming conducted at 574 Prince St., while the Soup Café, which house’s the group’s support and employment programs, is located at 563 Prince St. Still other initiatives are held in additional sites, such as the NSCC Truro campus.
The association has recognized in recent years that more people are going about their daily lives “who really need more support than they are comfortable reaching out for, or that they are indicating,” Henderson said. In an effort to address those needs and to bring all its services under one roof, the association recently purchased the former Bargain Shop retail building on Prince Street.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be large and open and beautiful in the centre,” she said, with separate sections used for a variety of programming taking place as people come in.
“For instance, you might come in for a really delicious bowl of soup (from Soup Café) and then you see that we’re working with sea glass down in the centre table.”
Henderson is hoping the new environment will encourage more people to sign up for therapeutic art works program or other initiatives while also seeking help they might otherwise have not reached out for.
“So we’re hoping that having that kind of open space will be really conducive to people (expressing curiosity) and taking part,” she said.
“There is so much stigma around mental health and mental health concerns … “so we are developing a full spectrum of programs around what people really need in terms of how much mental health has impacted their daily life.”
The new facility offers total floor space of 14,000 sq. ft. Of that, 10,400 sq. ft. is to be renovated in the initial phase at a cost of $2 million.
A second, later phase is being proposed to provide transitional housing for people who need it.
“That is a huge need in our community for folks that are transitioning from either the Nova Institution (for women) or from the psychiatric unit at the hospital here and just trying to find their way, getting their feet settled, getting back on their own.”
Colchester County Council has committed to contributing $100,000 to the project over 10 years and other funding sources are to be announced during the fundraising launch.
“It’s an old building and it needs a substantial amount of work,” Henderson said. “But we’re willing to do that and we know the community will stand behind us so that somebody who is struggling can just walk in without a diagnosis and immediately get some help that they need.”