Henry Wall, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenora District Services Board, was Dryden Rotary’s first ever guest speaker to attend a meeting using the ZOOM video conferencing system.
Wall’s purpose was to supply Rotarians with  an update on the activities of the KDSB, however, he began his talk with a tribute to Rotary and the ShelterBox program for the work they did in 2010 in Haiti following that year’s earthquake, as he visited the country two weeks after that tragic event and saw first hand its devastation and how Rotarians were through ShelterBox helping to provide “housing” relief in the country.
Partnerships Strategy
Of course, providing housing for citizens with limited means is a primary function of the Services Board and over the past year their primary strategy has been to cultivate partnerships in this regard. Local examples of such partnerships have occurred with the City of Dryden and the city’s Native Friendship Centre.
Three areas of particular concern, where social housing is required, are:
  • Seniors who can no longer keep up their traditional home yet do not have the resources to afford housing in the private sector;
  • Our region has the second highest rate of child poverty in the province;
  • We have a growing population of predominately young people who are homeless. A recent study identified 65 people who are “couch surfing”.
With over 1200 families waiting for affordable housing the KDSB has partnered with the Dryden Native Friendship Centre to purchase the old Pinewood School to create the “Homeward Bound Program.” Together they have redeveloped the school into 15 residential housing units for women and children. Homeward Bound is a four-year program geared to help Indigenous single mothers break the cycle of dependency of social services by assisting them with affordable housing, childcare, education and employment training.
KDSB has also partnered with the City of Dryden by taking over the Dryden Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation’s  66 affordable housing units at 10 separate buildings.  They are currently in the process of planning to start work on a 40 unit affordable senior residence on the grounds of the former Pinewood School. Dryden has also transferred responsibility for Childcare facilities within the city to the KDSB. Both resulted in significant cost efficiencies being realised.
The Kenora District Services Board also has responsibility for the Northwest Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In Dryden, they have purchased and torn down the former Moose Hall and will be constructing a new EMS facility for our land ambulances.
The partnership with Dryden has also born fruit in the redevelopment of Dryden’s downtown core. With the demolishing of the Central Hotel and adjacent stores at King and Earl Streets, and the construction of a new office and retail complex the KDSB has agreed to move their headquarters with its current staff of 40 from a Kenora warehouse to Dryden.
Wall’s presentation ended with a discussion of the emerging issue of homelessness in the city. The shear number, sixty-five, startled many Rotarians. However, Wall explained that it was not just a matter of building a homeless shelter but that drug abuse, particularly the use of crystal meth had to be addressed at the same time, as it was an underlying issue of homelessness.
Let’s hope that the community can continue to reap the benefits of partnering with the KDSB to solve this community need too.