Imagine living a childhood without water flowing from the tap or food in the fridge. Imagine having to huddle around a space heater for warmth or plug holes in the walls with newspaper and cloth. Imagine not having a roof over your head at all.
What is merely a fictitious childhood for me—and my own children—is nothing but reality for children of the 1.6 million Canadian families that are currently in need of safe, decent, and affordable shelter. That is a ridiculously large number, and it makes my heart ache.
While many Canadians are making tough decisions about the colour of their shiny new car or which vacation home they should buy, many more are making real choices between paying for heat and paying their rent. That’s not a decision that families should have to make.
With millions of Canadians living in unstable homes, Habitat for Humanity evolved from a desire to help low-income families. Since the 1970’s, they have been mobilizing volunteers and community partners across North America to help end the cycle of poverty. In 1987, Winnipeg became home to the first Canadian affiliate, with the first home built in Winkler, Manitoba two years earlier. There are currently 56 affiliates across Canada that have successfully provided nearly 3,000 families with safe, decent, and affordable housing. Now, that’s a number that I like—and one that is growing.
One such affiliate is located right here in the Comox Valley, and members of the CVC team were lucky enough to get in on a build. One Friday in April, our Publisher, Creative Director, an advertiser, one Community Engagement Specialist, and two of our writers (myself included) spent the day helping out at a build in Campbell River. This crew of creative athletes hammered nails, sawed two-by-fours, swept up sawdust, cleared away excess plywood, and attached hurricane clips and ventilation stops. It was a long construction day—especially for those of us not used to that sort of thing—but worth every minute. Volunteers are the key to the success of this process. Without them, affordable housing, like the one on Dalton Road, wouldn’t get built.
Every year within Canada, more than 63,000 volunteers work with Habitat for Humanity. Thousands more take part in their Global Village program building homes in other countries. Brick by brick, homes are created for families in need, and a solid foundation is poured. But Habitat for Humanity isn’t just helping people construct and purchase affordable housing, they’re providing an opportunity for homeownership that builds confidence, equity, and pride.
The build and ownership process makes affordable housing accessible to families who can’t otherwise afford to own a home. This is done with volunteer labour and donated materials; selling the homes to partner families with a required commitment of 500 volunteer hours; and offering families an affordable and sustainable no-interest, no down-payment mortgage with monthly payments set at 25% of their gross income. The monthly mortgage payments of partner families goes into a revolving fund held by the affiliate that built the home. This fund is reinvested into the community, and used to build more homes for more families in need.
A solid roof overhead and ground beneath the feet is bringing stability to the lives of low-income families in Canada, and beyond. By providing a continuous circle of build, buy, and reinvest, Habitat for Humanity is helping to transform lives one nail at a time.
PROFILE OF COMMUNITY IN ACTION SPONSORED BY NORTH ISLAND UROLOGY