Kingston Community House at 99 York making big changes toward universal access

Kingston Community House is located at 99 York Street. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Kingston Community House (KCH) at 99 York Street recently received $10,000 from Kingston Community Credit Union (KCCU) to assist with its ambitious renovations to make the facility more accessible and user-friendly.

Elinor Rush, past president and treasurer of the board and currently a member at large, describes a bit of KCH’s history: “In 1981, four women in Kingston decided that it would be a good idea to have a facility for community use that was not dependent on government approvals or funding, and they purchased a house at 99 York Street. Then in 1983, it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization with charitable status.” This house was known as Kingston Community House for Self-Reliance.

Rush describes the house as “quite big. It has five different levels with two meeting rooms and a full kitchen, which makes a third meeting room. On the second floor there are three studios that are rented out to community members, and on the top floor there is a residence.”

“People who want to use the facility need to become members… then you can rent space,” Rush says, pointing out that the use of KCH’s facilities is cheaper than even the Kingston Library facility rentals. “The Board of Directors for the entire 40 years has been extremely determined to keep the costs as low as possible so that no one in the community is excluded.”

KCH’s guiding principles have always been to include everyone, to keep fees low, and to encourage much-needed peer support and community focus. And they have delivered on those principles for 40 years, states Rush.

Except for one problem: the house, beautiful as it is, has five levels and is therefore extremely difficult to make accessible. 

The board has developed a multi-faceted plan to provide an accessible entrance, meeting room, kitchen, and washroom. This will be the organization’s biggest undertaking ever, but upon completion, KCH will have better traffic flow and better meeting facilities, helping them achieve their desire to include everyone in their Community House family. 

Much of the development of the plan took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. KCH weathered the pandemic fairly well, having only “closed briefly, while we were in conversation with the Kingston Health Unit,” Rush explains. “Because the house is used by a number of groups of people struggling with addiction, the Health Unit, [together] with the Board, decided that it was offering an essential service and that the risk of isolation and lack of peer support was actually a bigger risk than COVID. “

As such, the only groups that continued to use it were groups for whom isolation posed that significant risk. Now that restrictions have been lifted, numbers are similar to pre-pandemic, according to Rush: “between 400 and 600 people going through the house every month.”

Access issues at the home have been a subject of debate since the beginning, Rush acknowledges, but since activity at KCH was quieter during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was time to develop a plan to address them. This plan included creating a back entrance that is universally accessible and allows access to the kitchen, a bathroom, and a meeting room.

The newly constructed, properly graded patio will allow universal access and provide outdoor meeting space. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Previously, the yard was not easily accessed by wheelchairs, strollers, or walkers, says Rush, but with a grant from the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston, the backyard renovation is nearly completed, providing “a properly graded, very wide, flat sidewalk from the back lane to this big window, which will become an access door in the future.” 

Tom’s Landscaping and Trousdale’s Home Hardware have also answered the call for community assistance. But more assistance is needed, and would be greatly appreciated, to reach their $60,000 goal.

With the backyard reno completed except for the garden, the group now has outdoor meeting space to offer “a 16 by 18-foot patio…You can have a concert, a reading, a meeting,” Rush says.

Once the outdoor changes are completed, the group will move on to what Rush calls a “mega project”: an indoor renovation with a total cost of around $80,000. The fundraising required to pull this off is daunting, but Rush is very grateful to KCCU for donating $10,000 in seed money to make a start toward KCH’s interior renovation goal. 

Elinor Rush (centre) of the Kingston Community House Board of Directors accepts a ch$10,000 cheque from Dave Bull and Jon Dessau of Kingston Community Credit Union. Submitted photo.

A release from KCCU states its strong belief in “building cooperative relationships with their members and community… As part of the credit union philosophy of People Helping People, KCCU is committed to building, strengthening, and enhancing the lives of those in our community.”

Rush has high hopes that more assistance will be provided to move the project forward. “We’re working hard to find allies that we can work with. We’re actively looking for support from the trades; that would be fantastic, because we have electrical work … plumbing … and carpentry to do, and lots of materials purchases to make.” She notes that all of those things, if they can be discounted in any way, are a huge help. “We have charitable status, so we are able to recognize contributions from a tax perspective,” she adds.

Rush admits,“It’s a huge dream, but, we’re very committed to it.”

For more information about Kingston Community House at 99 York Street, visit their website.

4 thoughts on “Kingston Community House at 99 York making big changes toward universal access

  • Thank you for telling Kingston folk of our dream and our call to action in support of our dream! Much appreciated!

  • I was very pleased to read this report on the Kingston Community House at 99 York and was happy to see how organizations in the community have stepped in as partners to improve the house, making it and the yard more accessible. As president-elect of the Rotary Club of Cataraqui Kingston, I would ask that the Kingstonist make a correction in its reporting. Credit was given to the Rotary Club of Kingston; whereas, it was our club in this case that provided the support mentioned. The four Rotary clubs in Kingston and the two Rotaract Clubs sometimes collaborate on projects and other service activities, but each club also has its own projects and does its own fund-raising to support them.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Bill Egnatoff, President-Elect 2023-24
    Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks very much for bringing that to our attention! We want to be as accurate as possible, so we appreciate the opportunity to make that correction, which we have done now.

      Take care,

      Tori Stafford
      Editor-in-Chief
      Kingstonist

  • Many thanks for your quick response to Bill Egnatoff’s request that you identify the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston as the correct Rotary Club that provided a grant to the Kingston Community House for Self Reliance at 99 York Street for their back yard renovation. Our Club was pleased to see the attention paid to this valuable community resource. We do appreciate that you made the correction once you became aware of the error in your article.

    Sincerely,

    Heather Nogrady
    Chair, Community Service Committee 2022-23, 2023-24
    Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston.

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