Home stagers reach out to troubled women

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Cheryl Rossi
Van. Courier

Kulli Yee was one of a dozen designers who redecorated two rooms at Sereena’s Housing for Women in the Downtown Eastside. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Kulli Yee was one of a dozen designers who redecorated two rooms at Sereena’s Housing for Women in the Downtown Eastside. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Heather Kleim was fretting about what to wear to a meeting with a real estate agent when she had a reality check.

Kleim, a 33-year-old owner of a home staging business, saw a news story about Louise Edwards, a Kamloops woman who has helped women and children in need in the Downtown Eastside for more than 30 years.

“She knows what it’s like to live life having absolutely everything that you need and she just saw a really great need down here,” Kleim said.

Kleim, the owner of Epic Empire Designs, contacted the reporter to get in touch with Edwards.

Kleim and Heather Stewart of HS Home Staging started the City Stagers Meet-up group of professional designers and industry partners with a mandate of community involvement. With so many of their clients wanting to purge household items, helping those in need of furnishings seems like a natural fit.

Edwards spoke at one of the home stagers’ first meetings. She told them about Sereena’s Housing for Women, located in the former New Wings Hotel that’s kitty-corner from Oppenheimer Park. Run by Atira Women’s Resource Society, it provides a home to 56 women dealing with medical and mental health problems. Many work in the street-level sex trade.

The building had a TV and breakfast room that was laid with chipped, painted plywood floors and was painted sterile white before City Stagers and their volunteers arrived.

Kleim asked Sarah Louie, program manager of Sereena’s Housing, for a wish list of furnishings and everyday items Sereena’s needed. The home stagers tweeted and blogged to draw donations.

Kleim told clients she’d cart away their castoffs. At one point, her one-bedroom apartment in the West End and the basement of her boyfriend’s home were stuffed with goods.

The designers wrangled free paint, flooring, art, a stove, a dishwasher and crafting supplies. Go Truck Go donated its time to transport the goods. The flooring was put down in the breakfast and TV room, which was painted golden yellow and green by a volunteer.

The women gathered at Sereena’s on Monday to pull together the finishing touches and spruce up the room with new seating areas and a Christmas tree.

Residents, Louie said, were annoyed they were barred from the breakfast and TV room that morning. But they had volunteered to clean the new floor after it was laid because they were so pleased with the change.

The stagers were to add a desk to an adjacent and under-used room so Louie can be stationed there and the space, which is big and bright, used by the women. Louie was glad for the donations from City Stagers because Atira has no money for furnishings. But communal rooms are important in the building where residents live in little rooms and share bathrooms and kitchens.

The designers brought donations of clothes and small presents for each resident. “It’s been a great way to get to know each other on a personal level,” Kleim said of the work of the Meet-up group of 15 women. “It’s a nice group of women helping women.”

© Copyright (c) Lower Mainland Publishing

One Response to “Home stagers reach out to troubled women”

  1. Thanks for the mention of our project! We have a fantastic group of creative, dynamic women!