Runners take big steps for Courtyard Village residents

Fun run benefits those told to vacate their apartments

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Published:

 

How to help

Donations to help Courtyard Village Apartments residents can be made to the Council for the Homeless, 2500 Main St., Vancouver. With the donation, specify that the money is for Courtyard Village residents. Donations also can be made online at <a href="http://www.councilforthehomeless.org/donate-online">www.councilforthehomeless.org/donate-online</a>.

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How to help

Donations to help Courtyard Village Apartments residents can be made to the Council for the Homeless, 2500 Main St., Vancouver. With the donation, specify that the money is for Courtyard Village residents. Donations also can be made online at www.councilforthehomeless.org/donate-online.

The community support continued Sunday morning for the Courtyard Village Apartment residents who have been told to vacate their homes.

More than 200 people put on their running shoes and took off along Columbia Street in downtown Vancouver as part of a fundraiser for the families, many of them financially strapped, who must move out because of building renovations. Participants in the holiday-themed fun run were asked to donate at least $10, and Columbia United Providers, a local health insurance company, promised a donation match of up to $2,000.

“This is a true testimony to our community,” organizer Sherri McMillan told the crowd before the run.

The apartment complex, at 2600 T St. in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood, has been a low-rent housing option for many families, and advocates worry that although the renovations are needed, residents might not be able to find affordable housing elsewhere. Having to come up with the moving costs, including a deposit on a new apartment, could be especially tricky around the holidays.

After the renovations, the owner of the 151-unit complex, Parc Central LLC, plans to raise the rents. The company had given families in 16 units notice that they must move out by the end of the year; that deadline has since been extended to Jan. 15 if residents can show that they face a hardship.

Carla Feltz, the family-community resource coordinator at Washington Elementary School, which is near the apartment complex, informed the crowd that advocates have been able to find housing for some of the families, but a need for help still exists.

“It’s not just a one-time thing,” Feltz said, adding that this is only the first wave of families to lose their apartments because of renovations at the complex. “We’re going to help everyone who lives there who needs it.”

What’s happening at Courtyard Village, she added, has brought the area’s lack of affordable housing to the “forefront to discuss with community leaders.”

Some of those community leaders were present at the fundraiser Sunday morning, including Vancouver City Councilors Larry Smith and Alishia Topper, and state Rep. Sharon Wylie.

Housing advocates have spent the past year calling attention to the fact that the local apartment vacancy rate is very low — hovering around 2.5 percent — and that some landlords are able to leverage that into higher rents, leaving the neediest renters behind.

By participating in the run, Topper told the crowd, “you’re making a statement” that it’s important to help the vulnerable.

Shortly after 9 a.m., participants in the run took off from Torque Coffee Roasters, following Columbia Street to the Waterfront Trail. Those wanting to run or walk the three-mile course were told to turn back after passing Beaches Restaurant; those seeking a longer run were advised to continue to Wintler Park before heading back. Water, protein bars and candy canes awaited them at the finish line, McMillan said.

Runners were encouraged to dress festively, by wearing red and green or even sporting an ugly Christmas sweater. One man dressed as Santa Claus, another participant wore a mascot-style reindeer costume.

The event raised at least $8,500, and donations continue to come in, McMillan said Sunday afternoon. That $8,500 is in addition to the roughly $10,000 raised for the cause before Sunday.

Jenny Brown and her partner Neal Dykeman, both of Vancouver, said they came out to the run because they believed supporting the residents of Courtyard Village was a worthy cause.

“It’s very important that we keep people housed and happy,” said Brown, chairwoman of the Lincoln Neighborhood Association.

By making the community better for everyone, “we all benefit,” Dykeman added.