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Multifaith Housing Initiative: an affordable housing partner

Photo of veteran and a woman
Suzanne Le, executive director of MHI, and Andy Carswell at the cornerstone laying of the Veteran’s House, Sept.15, 2019. Photo: James Park for MHI
By on November 1, 2021

Our diocesan commitment to affordable housing, so well covered in David Humphrey’s articles in the September issue of Crosstalk and the work of the diocesan Homelessness and Affordable Housing Working Group, has involved many partners including the Multifaith Housing Initiative (MHI) which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. The Rev. Canon Garth Bulmer and Gay Richardson of St John the Evangelist, Ottawa, were there at the beginning. Garth was president and Gay was secretary.  Gay has continued to be active up to the present.

This has been an exemplary model of how faith communities can come together to fulfil what the prophet Micah envisioned. The requirements of faith would come about as people “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with their God” (Micah 6:8). This is now a coalition of over 70 faith communities, including the Diocese of Ottawa and a number of our parishes with Bishop Shane as a patron of MHI. With Suzanne Le, MHI’s executive director, and a small but dedicated staff supported by a myriad of volunteers and generous donors within and beyond the faith communities, MHI has grown considerably.

MHI’s modest beginning was with Kent House with five units purchased in 2005. There are now five different property sites composed of 179 units, housing an estimated 400 people. More units are on the way, one being in partnership with the Parish of Julian of Norwich, Ottawa.

This Remembrance Day will be the first for veterans in their new home in the Veterans’ House— the Andy Carswell Building of 40 units, appropriately located on the site of the former Rockcliffe RCAF Base which was just awaiting a project such as this.  In response to homeless veterans of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, many of whom were ‘living rough’, this has been a unique project involving partnerships with a number of veterans’ organizations as well as the community at large and it is planned to be a model for similar projects across the country. 

Veterans’ House is honoured to bear the name of Andrew “Andy” Carswell, who at age 19 flew Lancaster Bombers and became a prisoner of war in Poland in 1943. After the war, he re-joined the RCAF and flew PBY Cansos on the West Coast on search and rescue missions. In 1958, Her Majesty awarded him the Air Force Cross. Andy died in July of this year having seen the opening of a building bearing his name and that would honour veterans by providing them with homes.

Anglicans participating in Tulipathon holding a sign
Many Anglican parishes send active members and financial contributions to Multifaith Housing’s annual Tulipathon fundraiser.

There is also the ongoing need to enhance and maintain these properties well and to support the residents by providing subsidies so that their homes are truly affordable. MHI members and volunteers, a generous public, and many partner organizations make this happen. MHI’s major annual fundraiser is the “Tulipathon,” which previously was a walk through the tulips but has had to be virtual these past two years with amazing results (raising an astonishing $105,405 this year). And, of course, there are regular donors and our member communities sharing the endeavour.  Check out MHI and see the whole story at www.mutifaithhousing.ca.

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