Faith in Action

Brockville Christians respond to housing shortage.

“The right to adequate housing should not be interpreted narrowly. Rather, it should be seen as the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity,” according to the United Nations (UN). Certain populations face greater challenges exercising this right, the UN says, namely women, children, the displaced, persons with disability, persons experiencing homelessness, and Indigenous groups. In Canada’s federal National Housing Strategy (NHS), a 10-year, $55 billion plan, seniors are added to this list of vulnerable populations. This plan seeks to make housing accessible and sustainable by “bringing together the public, private and non-profit sectors to re-engage in affordable housing. Using a mix of funding, grants and loans, the strategy will create affordable, stable and livable communities.” 

Homes that allow vulnerable populations a place of security and belonging are cropping up throughout Canada, showcasing unique ideas and new problem-solving techniques. Christians are part of this trend, partnering with agencies or donating land; many faith-based outreach organizations are crafting wraparound programming for those most vulnerable and utilizing spaces that would otherwise be deemed unusable. 

InDwell is one such organization, a “Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities that support people seeking health, wellness and belonging.” InDwell partners with churches that own excess land and also utilizes blighted areas or buildings, repurposing these properties and working alongside other social services to build and provide beautiful, accessible and affordable living units, community spaces and holistic supports. 

In Brockville, Ont., Marguerita Residence Corporation (MRC), a non-profit housing corporation, has been a leader in providing rent-geared-to-income units and “low end of market” units for seniors since the 1980s. This summer MRC completed a six-story building – adding 85 more affordable living spaces for seniors in the area. 

MRC’s board and development committee are made up largely of volunteers, people from seven local churches representing five different denominations. MRC gained provincial and federal support through a social infrastructure grant worth close to $2 million. It partners with Wall Street United Church, the City of Brockville, Infrastructure Ontario and the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville to now offer a total of three buildings with over 200 units for seniors. 

There’s a clear need for senior housing in the area; some tenants wait five to seven years for a unit. Waitlists currently have over 200 more names. 

Bruce Hynes, member of Brockville’s First Baptist Church and MRC’s Board Chair, and Richard Van Veldhuisen, member of Brockville’s Bethel Christian Reformed Church and MRC’s Volunteer Development Manager, state that with a “trust in providence,” vision and prayer, MRC has established a “thriving seniors’ community.” 

In an interview with Christian Courier, Hynes quoted James 2:14-17 when asked about providing secure housing to the “least of these”: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? . . .  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” 

InDwell encourages churches to come alongside and partner with housing charities, to tangibly further Jesus’ calling to love our neighbour.  


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