He moved into a house with seven apartments where there should have been four. Windows leaked, the heat only worked moderately, and squirrels could make their way into his place to eat his food… but he could afford it. He talked to the landlord about some of the difficulties and was told every time that ‘they would be looked after’, but after a year, he’s realized that’s unlikely. If he complains to a rent control board he might lose his apartment, and there aren’t many other places he can afford in the city. What should he do?
Maybe the more important question is, “What should we do?” What is the response of God’s people, saved by the sacrificial work of Christ and called to give our lives in thankfulness to all He’s done for us? Do we pray? Do we ask God to move in the heart of the landlord? Provide more money for housing for our friend? Do we advocate? Do we go to the landlord on someone’s behalf to negotiate better living arrangements, or do we call in the rent control board?
Our neighbourhood is changing. Over 40% of the housing in the area has at one point acted as affordable housing, but as rental rates increase drastically and houses are purchased and converted into single family dwellings, marginalized people are being forced out.
Last January, I invited Indwell (a Christian organization in Hamilton who has provided supportive, affordable housing for over 40 years) to go with me through the north end of the city and think about how we might be able to partner with them in providing supportive, affordable housing. At the end of our time together we were sitting in my vehicle behind our new property at 500 James Street, just about to pray, when they suggested that we could do something with our property.
We were about to be handed the building permits to start to build our new church facility and outreach centre, and the last thing I wanted to do was postpone that. I went to the elders of our church, who after much prayer and fasting agreed that we should consider having supportive, affordable housing on our property — and the congregation agreed. And so we are believing that God is going to provide for Hughson Street Baptist in such a way that we can build a new church facility that will include 45 units of supportive, affordable housing on-site. Individuals struggling with diabetes, disabilities, mental health issues and addictions, who need support and affordability, will be living in the building.
Indwell will provide the necessary housing supports and Hughson Street Baptist Church will provide spiritual support, becoming ‘chaplains’ for those living in the building. God is providing $6.3 million from the city (provincial and federal monies for housing) toward the project with no conditions except that we use the money for subsidized housing for 20 years. Pray for us as we start this exciting endeavour this spring.
— Dwayne Cline is Senior Pastor at Hughson Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, ON.