“Stay where you’re to ‘till I comes to where you’re at.” That’s what I told Dave Tilley, A Place Called Home’s manager of fund development and operations when I dropped in to meet with him. It’s a Maritime expression he’s familiar with: after all, he grew up in Conception Bay South, met his wife when both were students at Memorial University, and each summer delivers their two kids to Newfoundland to spend summer vacation with the grandparents. He’s been steeped in Newfoundlandese.
Dave has a diverse set of responsibilities. When I dropped in, he could have been in any of a number of locations. That morning’s checklist included everything from a health and safety meeting and looking into a used truck purchase to installation of some paper towel dispensers.
When the front desk located him, he ‘stayed where he was to.’ I came ‘to where he was at,’ down a flight of stairs and along a corridor, to what looked like an oversized broom closet, into which were crammed a desk and Dave (who’s 6’ 5”).
Dave, who’d been preparing a grant application for additional outreach program funding, greeted me with a grin and a firm handshake and led me to a larger meeting room.
I identified three areas I was curious about: his role, how his Newfoundland background played into that, and — since registration has already opened and it’s APCH’s biggest fundraiser — the August 24 Kawartha Classic Cycling Tour. (That last word, by the way, is pronounced “too-er” if you’re me; “tore” if you’re Dave).
A Place Called Home is, of course — as its website explains — a “charitable, non-profit organization that has been providing shelter and 24/7 support services to the homeless — and those at risk of becoming homeless — since 1995.” It operates a 19-bed shelter for youth, adults, couples and families who have found themselves with no safe place to go at the end of their day.
A vital service, particularly given the local shortage of affordable housing: In January the occupancy rate was 94%; the month before it was 103%. And it’s a staff-intensive service: there are 21 staff, nine of them full time. “We are,” says Dave, “in the people business.”
Dave’s role is supportive: he makes sure the facility is maintained, and that clients have what any home has to have, including a kitchen that turns out three meals a day, and laundry facilities.
The other part of his job is ensuring adequate funding. Roughly 70% of the operating budget comes indirectly from the province (the City acts as “Service Manager” for housing and homelessness). The balance the agency must generate.
Grants are part of the life-blood. In December, for example, CHEST Fund money enabled major renovation of the emergency kitchen (which serves not only 19 residents but up to 20 outreach clients daily).
The biggest capital project — and what Dave terms “his baby”– came with the purchase of the property next door. A grant of $203,257 from Federal Homeless Partnering Strategy money made the purchase possible. With grants from the Home Depot Foundation, CHEST fund and elsewhere, the building is being gutted and renovated, under Dave’s direction, to provide some badly-needed “second-stage housing.”
Then there are the fundraising events. The Cycling Tour each year raises $35,000 to $40,000. There’s also the annual “Mark-a-thon,” a 5 and 10 km walk that raises about $10,000.
A Newfoundland Perspective
Another fundraiser, and one that puts Dave’s background front and centre, is the biennial Newfoundland Night. Last year’s included a traditional Jigg’s dinner, screech, and fiddle music.
But where the Newfoundlander perspective shines through most might be in his empathy. Coming from a province that’s seen its share of hardships, he understands that anyone can be down on their luck — that an illness, loss of a job, other unforeseen circumstances can render anyone homeless, particularly if there aren’t family supports.
As a Newfoundlander he appreciates the way our community supports the shelter. (He mentions how mayor and council have stepped up (Councillors Pat Dunn and Doug Elmslie, in particular), the hard work of Hope Lee, the City’s Manager of Housing, and the response whenever a call goes out to the community.
He’s impressed, too by the “help-your-neighbour” attitude of the clients. “All have struggled here and people support one another,” he says.
The Kawartha Classic Cycling Tour
For APCH, it’s a significant fundraiser.
For our community, it’s a boon to the economy. Roughly 60% of the riders are (in Maritime parlance) come-from-aways. They stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants.
For you, reader, it’s an opportunity. Dave explains: “This is a chance to experience the Kawarthas very intimately.” There are quiet backroad routes from 25 to 160 km, mapped out by Kawartha Cycling Club’s Dermott Doyle, regular rest-stops (with, for energy, cookies contributed by an Amish bakery), and support for any rider who runs into difficulty.
This year there’s been a big effort to make the event more family-friendly. There’s a special family rate and 13 and 25 km local trail routes.
Dave’s quick to credit the Kawartha Cycling Club. “They’re the reason the event is the success it is,” he says.
But it’s also been a source of to-do items for Dave. Currently he’s developing a press release, mailing posters to regional cycle clubs, designing a card for tourism venues, and looking for additional sponsors.
So, our interview drawing to a close, Dave could cross off ‘interview’ from his list, and move on. As we part we wished each other well. In Newfoundlandese? That would be “Long may yer big jib draw!”