Transitional housing program $13,000 closer to reality after fundraising event

Gary and Tammy Vandenheuvel are establishing transitional housing units at the former ABC Daycare on London Road

Tammy and Gary Vandenheuvel, co-owners of Preferred Towing, held a special screening of Season 2, Episode 1 of "Heavy Rescue: 401" as a fundraiser for a transitional housing project in Sarnia.

The stars of Discovery Channel show “Heavy Rescue: 401” are $13,000 closer to establishing a transitional housing facility for local youth after a fundraiser earlier this month.

Nearly 200 people bought tickets for an advance screening of the first episode of “Heavy Rescue: 401’s” second season.

The money will be used to purchase furniture, appliances, and living needs for the housing units, said Tammy Vandenheuvel, who, with her partner Gary Vandenheuvel, purchased the former ABC Daycare on London Road with the goal of offering seven apartment units catering to youth ages 16 to 24-years-old who may otherwise be homeless or face uncertain housing situations.

Gary and Tammy, co-owners of Preferred Towing, bought the building last year and the city later rezoned the property allowing them to move forward with their plans.

“There’s a huge need in the community and it takes people to make it happen,” said Tammy, who worked as a child and youth worker for over 30 years. “It takes a village to raise a child.”

As of right now, Tammy said she hopes to see the facility open before next winter.

While the couple owns the building, there are many support services and agencies, such as the County of Lambton, that have to come together to make the project possible.

Tammy said as the project develops, volunteers and community partners will be needed to help with renovations at the building

The Inn of the Good Shepheard operates a transitional housing program in Sarnia and Executive Director Myles Vanni said more transitional housing units would absolutely benefit the community.

Transitional housing programs allow individuals to develop the life skills needed to be independent, Vanni said.

“We teach how to clean a unit, how to manage money, how to be a good neighbor, interpersonal skills, that sort of stuff,” said Vanni. “When they move out of transitional housing they are able to live independently.”

“If your upbringing didn’t give you those life skills, then you live what you learn,” he said.

Vanni said landlords who may be weary renting to young people are often reassured an individual will make a good tenant if that person completed the transitional housing program.

Very few people who go through a transitional housing program end up back at the emergency shelter, he said

“It gives them that ability to be successful.”

According to Vanni, transitional housing programs benefit both individuals and the community at large because stable housing allows people to focus on other parts of life such as education and employment.

Last month, Lambton Shield editor J.D. Booth sat down with Gary and Tammy Vandenheuvel to talk about their project and fundraiser on the Lambton Shield ‘Spotlight’ podcast. Check out their conversation below.

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