Gail has been a volunteer with Bethlehem Housing & Support Services for many years, and was able to help arrange the valuable partnership between Bethlehem and CAW Local 199.
In the spring of 2003, Mayor Tim Rigby and Mr. Peter Papp of Opportunities Niagara approached Julie Dennis, Executive Director of Bethlehem Projects asking that they partner with CAW Local 199 to develop new housing to help address the huge need in Niagara. Since Gail had a long relationship as a volunteer with Bethlehem Projects, Julie recruited her to Chair a Steering Committee and consider the request.
It was both a challenging and educational experience for Gail. Through her learning, she was staggered by the deplorable housing conditions for some people living in Niagara. “I was shocked by the number paying too high a proportion of their income for rent (what happens when a child is sick – does a mother buy food or medicine?)”
She was also extremely surprised by how many individuals must have moved from one couch to another since they had nowhere to go. She remained fearful because so many women and children must have remained in abusive situations because they didn’t have a long-term alternative.
Consequently, they worked since that time to develop a 40 unit, affordable, supportive apartment building in downtown St. Catharines. Throughout Gail’s experience there were some challenges and setbacks but they continued to work diligently and remained steadfast in their commitment to completing the project. Gail mentioned, “You may wonder why we started this process at all when it is so difficult. The answer is simply this – the need. Bethlehem Projects has the experience and the vision to help address this dire need for affordable, supportive, decent housing.”
On June 27, 2007 the grand opening of Genesis Court was celebrated. Indeed, Genesis Court is a dream come true, not only for the fortunate residents who now occupy the smart, modern units, but for people like Gail Richardson who chaired the Bethlehem Housing Steering Committee. During her 16-years of volunteer work with Bethlehem Projects she never gave up on the dream, through all its ups and downs.