Wednesday, July 17, 2024

YMCA of Eastern Ontario creates partnerships in affordable housing pilot

Submitted photo

Affordable housing, or more precisely the lack of it, has reached a crisis level across our region. To contribute to finding solutions for this challenge, the YMCA of Eastern Ontario has re-entered the housing arena through its Hearthstone Housing Pilot project.

The project is a partnership among the Y, CaraCo Development Corporation, the City of Kingston and Tipi Moza – an urban First Nation, Metis and Inuit housing provider, developed under the CMHC Urban Native Housing Program.

“The desperate need for affordable housing is at critical levels in Kingston as it is across the country,” said Rob Adams, CEO, YMCA of Eastern Ontario. “In Kingston, the wait list for affordable housing is the greatest among the Indigenous population. This pilot project creates new partnerships that will see not only housing, but resources and supports provided to participants to help them develop the life skills

needed to maintain stable housing. The work we do with Tipi Moza will ensure that supports are delivered in a culturally sensitive way.”

As part of the Y’s Hearthstone pilot, CaraCo has been an enthusiastic partner, stepping up to provide a rental discount for four new units while Tipi Moza is the referring agency. The City of Kingston, is partially off-

setting rental costs through its rent supplement program, and tenants will cover the balance of the rent through social programs.

“CaraCo is pleased to partner with Tipi Moza and the YMCA on this important initiative and we look forward to welcoming the residents into their new homes,” said Blake Leew, COO, CaraCo Group of Companies.

Winnie Peters, executive director of Tipi Moza, said: “According to the 2021 Point-in-Time Count by the United Way KFLA, homelessness has disproportionately affected the Indigenous community. Although only 3.4 per cent of the Kingston population self-identifies as Indigenous, 31 per cent of those experiencing homelessness self-identify as Indigenous. Today, Tipi Moza oversees more than 55 units within Kingston along with a

19-unit transitional building. Even with this, the need is not being met and we welcome the opportunity to partner with the Y.”

The YMCA of Eastern Ontario has a history of providing transitional housing in Kingston. As programs and services evolved over time, the need for housing services had declined, however, with today’s growing urgency for affordable housing and the Y’s broad and deep experience in housing (including expert knowledge at the provincial and national levels) the Y is once more stepping up to provide housing for marginalized persons.

“The Y has been in conversation with the City of Kingston, our

provincial and national counterparts, and local housing providers over the past few years to identify local needs and where we might best play a role in this housing crisis,” Adams added. “It is our expectation that we will grow our program to further support vulnerable individuals in our community.”

This pilot goes beyond housing; the Y will set tenants up for success by providing wrap-around supports in the areas of fitness, mental health and life skills.

Participants will be in their units by June 1. Each tenant will receive a full membership to the YMCA along with workshops that include financial literacy, conflict management, personal responsibility, organization, self esteem, healthy relationships, gambling awareness, mental health and wellness. YMCA staff will also be available as touchpoints for residents to make referrals to other social services as appropriate, including, but not limited to mental health services, Kingston Food Bank, Lionhearts, utilities and other available funds, and tax services.

Tipi Moza along with Y partners Lionhearts and the Kingston Food Bank have already played an important role in making these units homes by helping to provision them with furnishings and food.

“It’s a great example of many organizations coming together and using their areas of expertise to make this a reality,” Adams said.

An extra benefit of providing four affordable units for individuals to move to is the resultant opening of four spaces at the Tipi Moza transitional program. This allows four persons experiencing homelessness to move into rooms in a stable and welcoming environment.

Submitted by YMCA of Eastern Ontario

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