Sean Segran and Kathleen Bennett from NIFCS stand in front of an unfinished loghouse in Kitsumkalum after it was brought closer to the street. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)

Vacant Kitsumkalum log house sees new life for family, youth services

Society spending $250,000 to renovate building

An uninhabited log house in Kitsumkalum will be finally put into use after almost two decades of standing empty.

The Northwest Inter-Nation Family and Community Services Society (NIFCS) was given a federal grant of $250,000 to renovate and turn the building into a community service space as part of its “lighthouse project”.

“After all these years, we’re bringing it up here to be converted into what we call the lighthouse, which is really a symbol for a building where the community will be using it for youth empowerment programs and engaging with the family,” says Sean Segran, NIFCS community and organization development strategist.

Running family services in the community for a few years now from the basement of the Kitsumkalum Band Council office or through home visits, NIFCS wanted to create a neutral space for workers and visitors.

It was originally considering a trailer unit or renting a separate office but then stumbled upon the two-storey building with boarded up windows behind the Kitsumkalum Health Centre.

“When we were looking for infrastructure in Kitsumkalum for some offices and the community lighthouse, we went looking all over to see if we can find somewhere to renovate or find a modular,” says NIFCS executive director Kathleen Bennett. “Then we saw that and thought what is that sitting there doing nothing?… If we’re going to spend money, we’d rather spend it on this than on a trailer.”

The traditional log house, which was supposed to be called the “Raven House”, was built as part of a construction course in the Kitsumkalum community with the intent of using it as a gathering place for youth and elders. With not enough money, the structure remained unfinished in the interior and despite trying to secure other grants, the loghouse never saw completion.

Bennett says NIFCS saw enormous potential in the log house and after inquiring about it, decided to invest into it under a lease-free arrangement. The log house will have offices for social workers, family support workers, youth workers and counsellors.

It has also been moved closer to the street to avoid it being in a potential flooding zone, easier access and to allow for the possibility of a backyard area.

The NIFCS expects to have the building running by the end of the year. When the lease period comes to an end, the building will revert to the community with all the improvements and equipment included.

Kitsumkalum band manager Steve Roberts says he’s happy to see the log house serve a purpose, especially one that reflects the original intent of being a community space. For many years, the community worried about the building’s lack of use and was surprised that NIFCS were committed to the renovation project.

“The building was never completed, it was just an empty shell… we chased after funding, sent out applications and that all bombed out,” says Roberts. “We’ve had a lot of elders in our community wanting to see this happen.”

For Segran and Bennett, the opportunity to renovate and have their services operate from a log house is something they never envisioned but are ecstatic to take on. They see it as a way to give back to the Kitsumkalum community and make their dreams of a gathering place a reality.

At the top of the log house are three raven poles, which Segran says they intend on keeping and incorporating into their lighthouse project. They are even considered integrating the name “Raven House” into the building.

Alongside the social services that NIFCS will offer, where the aim is to take preventive action and keep families together, Segran says the building will also offer youth workshops in a “creative zone” that will teach them how to fly a drone, design websites and other useful media skills to help them become more employable as they enter the workforce.

“It just has a magnificent look to it. I’m sure when it’s all finish, it’s just going to be lovely,” says Bennett.

“With this potential to bring out the talents of the youth… it will provide them opportunities for growth.”

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