There is hope for a new men’s shelter in Cold Lake.
Kokum’s House burned down on March 14, 2020 and claimed the life of 50-year-old Leslie Klassen. Last summer, RCMP laid charges of manslaughter and arson against Guillaume Gilbert for manslaughter and arson after a long investigation.
In the aftermath, the operators of the shelter at the Cold Lake Native Friendship Centre have been trying to raise money to build a new men’s shelter.
On Friday, almost a year to the day of the fire, the Cold Lake Friendship Centre had a sod-turning ceremony–in the snow–at the site of what will be the new Kokum’s House.
“There were so many men that were down and out and they just needed a place to revamp and go ahead, and that’s what we did for them,” said Agnes Gendron, executive director of the Friendship Centre.
Gendron said they now have the land and have tentatively secured a mortgage for a new shelter near the old Kokum’s House site in Cold Lake South.
The Friendship Centre has been working with Value Master Homes, which will be delivering part of the main structure in the coming months if things go to plan.
“We’re going to be applying for permits and we should have all of the permissions and everything back by the end of March. And then construction would start and I would say by an end of May, sometime in June, we should be getting that main floor piece landed on-site,” said Trevor Benoit, contractor from Value Master Homes.
“We’ve got the main portion of the home that we’re gonna land it on-site, but then we’re building an addition on the side for more transient people that are coming through. A place for them to sleep and stay in, bathe and everything like that. Then we’re building a big garage, a shop on the other side…for storage of supplies and food truck, so they have a place on-site,” he said.
Since opening in July 2015, roughly 250 men had been served at the shelter, who are encouraged to be independent and responsible while at Kokum’s House. Those who stayed at the home had responsibilities like household chores, volunteering, and an active job search.
Kokum’s House also provided a clean living environment for those suffering from addictions with 78 of those served at rehab centres.
“We’re gonna be partnering with the John Howard Society, [which] is going to provide the people who need extra help with their livelihood, help them to seek out financial aid, their mental health and all that there hoping to do at that building they’re at right now,” said Gendron.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the rebuild of Kokum’s House for donations.