A decision by District council to name a new housing initiative in Bracebridge Alex’s Place was described as bittersweet by District chair John Klinck at council’s March 21 meeting.
Alex Kerswell was a Gravenhurst resident who died by suicide on September 20, 2019, at the age of 17.
“Many of you are aware that two-and-a-half years ago two of our District staff, namely Shawn and Leanna Kerswell and their family, experienced a terrible tragedy that they continue to live with today,” said Klinck. “Their son Alex died by suicide. Alex was a young man experiencing mental health issues and… [the]family was unable to get the help that they needed. Leanna and Shawn, and of course their son Chris, really want to make sure that Alex is not forgotten.”
As the youth housing project has come to fruition, Klinck said staff at the District came together and proposed that the building be named Alex’s Place.
“The Kerswell’s are extremely touched by this proposal and they are aware of the need of council approval in order to proceed with the naming. I think this could also be very meaningful to our District staff and perhaps some of you, or members of our community who are also experiencing or have experienced trauma and grief related to the type of death that this family has experienced,” added Klinck, noting that “we would like to do something tangible to support the Kerswells and others who know youth [who]are struggling with mental illness.”
Council voted unanimously to name the facility Alex’s Place.
Councillor Paul Kelly said their efforts to educate people about mental health challenges has been noted.
“You’ve kept his memory alive by constantly reminding people about the challenges that everyone faces…, particularly youth. So, I only can say Shawn and Leanna I’m very proud of everything that you’ve done to keep his name in the forefront throughout the last several years and this is a great acknowledgment of him,” said Kelly.
Both parents were present at the remotely held meeting. They were emotional and thanked council.
Alex’s Place will be located at 49 Pine Street in Bracebridge. The housing project for youth ages 16 to 24 aims to help with 12 transitional and five affordable housing units and supports for those who stay there.
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