Habitat for Humanity Huronia’s recent 40th Home Dedication was one that the organization is extremely proud of not just for the stories involved, but for the way the community continues to help selflessly.
The cold weather didn’t keep away all the dedicated volunteers and proud families and friends from watching keys be handed off to three hard-working and blessed families with different stories and life experiences. Single mom Michelle Steele and her two kids, new Canadians Daniel and Freda Abiodun and their family and Michael Keogh and his two children were all the new recipients to house keys, giving them a home of their own. Keogh was a last minute addition to the new three family triplex. The single father has been working at the hospital in the cleaning department and said this is the break he and his kids had been waiting for.
“Home ownership is something I’ve been trying to do for a while now but couldn’t afford the down payment despite working like crazy for this to happen,” said Keogh. “The way housing is going it’s been impossible and over-whelming to say the least. I had been renting but that was very high and until recently staying with my mom to get some money saved up, but even that was tough. This is a blessing for the three of us.”
For the last 21 years, HFHH has provided affordable home-ownership to families who are usually working low income families. The families are involved from day one in what HFHH calls Sweat Equity, the act of volunteering hours on your home-to-be and eventually making monthly payments on a long-term, no-interest mortgage.
Ken Kirk is the HFHH CEO and says that while each dedication is amazing in its own way, this one today was extra special being the 38th, 39th and 40th of the local organization and believes that the stories involved were an added bonus.
“Can you imagine we had a single mom, a single dad and here on Canada’s 150th year we also have a family new to the country, all living side by side and planting roots together?” said Kirk. “It’s a great a feeling and is the reason we hand out tissues before the families talk to everyone.”
The true gift of the organization comes from the volunteers and local businesses that donate time, money and labour throughout the endeavours. The ground for this Anne Street South dwelling was broken in July 2016 and since then, countless and selfless people have done all they can for the homes to be ready and liveable by this day. Kirk knows that money is an obvious necessity for these projects, but the labour and materials by those willing to help are key to the mission of the group.
“There are businesses here who have shown up every day we had to work and used their own materials and crew to get these homes up,” said Kirk. “We’ve had rainy days, cold days and really hot days; everybody works with a smile on their face and a joy in their step. It’s something I look forward to being a part every morning.”
With HFHH being experts at the building and handling of volunteers and labour, one of the main issues that can hinder any progress is that of minimal sites. As housing prices continue to be a burden, Mayor Jeff Lehman admits that the struggle is finding land to build such generous developments on for those who really need it.
“The city has built out to its boundaries although we may see some growth in annexed lands which we hope will create some opportunity,” said Lehman. “But literally every month that goes by housing becomes less affordable here and while that’s the symptom of a strong economy which is a good thing, it unfortunate mean folks of modest income are priced out, and that’s who we need to help.”
Mayor Lehman reiterated that it is one of the top priorities of this current council to produce at least 840 units for housing and they have already made a lot of progress in second-suites and rental apartments, but that the model of HFHH is a great way to better living for families in the region. Another prominent dignitary on-hand was MP of Barrie, Springwater and Oro-Medonte Alex Nuttall. While he admits he is fully willing to discuss the technical and political sides of everything to do with our city, this day is emotionally dear to him coming from where he came from as a child.
“I can remember as a young person getting into our first home and that was straight out of government housing and there were a lot of tears and pride that day,” said Nuttall. “It started a different course for me and seeing that here makes me realize that these little kids and their parents will walk around now with head held high and a sense of accomplishment. We as a community have given them the chance they need and I know they’re going to run with it and grow both their financial futures as well as their families. It’s an emotional experience for sure.”
To find out how you can help with HFHH or if you qualify for their home ownership program, check the website at www.habitathuronia.com