Giving back to one’s community is a principle Alvero Higgins has always felt strongly about. For years, the Nova Scotia native worked with Hope Blooms and LOVE Nova Scotia, local organizations designed to support provide food security and protect at-risk youths from violence.
But in June of 2018, all of that had to come to a stop. Upon being diagnosed with kidney failure, Higgins was prescribed nine hours of daily dialysis while he waits for a transplant. This, unfortunately, caused Higgins to not only take a step back from his activism, but from his career.
To make ends meet on their limited funds, Alvero, his wife Chelcie, and their four children were forced to move into public housing. Though certainly better than living on the streets, the family reports neglect from the landlords—so bad that they were forced to move out for two weeks to deal with a rat infestation.
The Higgins family. Credit: Steve Lawerence. CBC.
”It’s terrible to raise your kids in conditions that aren’t fit for human beings,” Higgins says. “We had to threaten to bring TV cameras in order for them to take us serious.”
The run-down home is hardly fit for a family of six, let alone a man experiencing serious health conditions. Sarah MacLaren, a former co-worker of Alvero, was appalled to hear about his family’s living situation. In an effort to help them, MacLaren started a GoFundMe for the Higgins in hopes of securing better housing.
“Just the idea that housing is health care, and people’s health outcomes are radically changed by how they are housed,” she said.
Unfortunately for the Higgins, the housing market in their area shot up. Home prices skyrocketed, and bidding wars for properties became the norm. MacLaren was nearly to the point where she thought she might have to give up on the dream of getting the family a home when she met Brenda MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, a real estate agent, started A Home For Everyone, a group within her brokerage that donates to charities that support housing. Upon hearing about the Higgins’ story, MacKenzie was instantly compelled to help. She, too, is on dialysis, waiting for a kidney donation herself.
“It was just like, this is so strange. This is the perfect fit,” MacKenzie says.
The board agreed that the year’s donations would go toward a house for the Wiggins family. Though finding a suitable home in this competitive market seemed like a challenging feat even for the group of realtors, something opened up.
Sarah MacLaren. Credit: CBC.
The story of Alvero Higgins.
A four-bedroom townhouse close to a park and a pool had been in a bidding war, but all of the offers fell through. To “Team Wiggins,” it was fate. They rushed in to make an offer. A Home For Everyone found a lawyer and inspector to offer their services pro bono. The offer was accepted, and the family is in the process of closing on the home.
“This specific house was a miracle house, it was a unicorn house,” MacLaren says. “It’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve been a part of in my lifetime.”
The organization has found a list of furniture donations the family can have upon moving in, as well as volunteers to upgrade the home’s floors and countertops. Supported by a community of kind individuals, the family was able to step into a home that was all theirs.
Thanks to the giving spirit of their community, the Higgins will only have to pay a small mortgage comparable to their current rent—though the fundraising isn’t done. Around $58,000 still needs to be raised to cover the deal and provide the family a small stipend.
“It will mean everything, it will be a sense of security to live here, to have a home, to have a place to call home,” Alvero Higgins says. “We don’t even live here and my kids love it here. It will be so joyful for them.”
Once he is healthy again, Higgins plans to pay it forward and return to his passion of giving. For the time being, however, he is happy to be in a place where he can finally focus on his health.
Alvero Wiggins’ youngest daughter hugs Sarah MacLaren. Credit: Steve Lawrence. CBC.
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