Community Partner Spotlight: Community Justice Initiatives of WR

4 minute read

Meeting Challenges in Affordable Housing and Looking Beyond the Norm

For many, cost of housing and rising inflation rates this past year meant questions like “Can I afford to keep my house?”, “Where will I go if I lose my house?”, and “What are my options for safe and affordable housing?” were certainly on people’s mind. For Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo Region (CJI), these types of questions are ones they hear daily – and are addressing.

Community Justice Initiatives of Waterloo RegionCJI’s solution to supporting people in accessing dignified housing is through Waterloo Region Home Share (WRHS), a free, supportive process that matches home providers and home seekers in the Waterloo region and outlying areas. A Home Share is where two or more persons, usually unrelated, share a home together, and, through a Living Arrangement Memorandum of Understanding, mutually cohabit.

The Home Share program has been operating for several years now. Alison Harris, the Waterloo Region Home Share Coordinator, noted that things have been a little more challenging this past year: some “[h]ome providers are running into issues, now. The necessary amount of capital to covers costs is too high for some of the home seekers.”

The shift and impact of the current economy means that it’s not just home seekers who are worried about safe or affordable housing. It’s a top-down effect where higher mortgage payments for home providers means increasing the rent to cover costs, which home seekers, who normally have a rental income of $900-$1000 per month, can’t afford. With many experiencing homelessness, or on the brink of it, the increased number of home seekers over providers continues to be a challenge for the program.

However, Alison did point out that there was progress in 2023. “More people came to us, showing interest in becoming home providers. Awareness of the program grew – which is great!”

CJI also addresses the wide range of housing needs across the community, as they’re “not just working with those who are elderly and are seeking housing companionship,” added Alison. “In the fall of 2022, we began working with Family and Children Service of Waterloo Region to support youth who are aging out of care. We are excited to assist youth transitioning from care to experience dignified, safe, and affordable housing.”

CJI supports youth in finding home providers who are open to having a youth living with them in their home. CJI helps draft and create a living agreement between the home provider and youth home seekers to assist them in outlining expectations and provide support as they live together. This could include conflict coaching, conflict resolution, and co mentorship, all which help to skill the youth up.

While CJI has found it challenging to find home providers for youth there has been success supporting youth in co-housing. Typically, this is where a FACS social worker is able to find housing for 2 or 3 youth to share together. CJI is able to offer all of the same supports as those in the Home Share program, helps the youth stay housed, and improves their relationships with each other, and with others.

The Waterloo Region Home Share program is part of a working group, Shared Living Collective Waterloo Region. This group works together to build awareness of all the different types of shared living in our community, and partners include, “Extend- A- Family”, OneRoof, Open Homes, Community Living Cambridge, Karis Disability Services and Safe Families Canada.

Community Justice Initiatives’ goal with Waterloo Region Home Share is to assist people to have a healthy and supportive living arrangement using restorative practice. Their process of restorative practice is to help communities find innovative and new ways of looking at affordable housing. They continue to build awareness of their programs so that people think differently about housing.

“There’s been great reception through churches and congregations in finding home providers,” enthused Alison. “It’s mostly word-out-mouth, and even if people aren’t coming to us, we’re hearing about how home seekers and providers are connecting through networking and referrals.”

CJI isn’t always the intermediary between home providers and home seekers. They are inspired by the idea of people finding solutions to difficult experiences and realities. To them, home providers, home seekers, program volunteers, and program partners are those who embrace the values of thoughtful process when it comes to co-housing and shared housing.

For those who are struggling to find conventional mortgages in an unattainable housing market, or are looking for a safe space of transitional housing, the Home Share program or co-habiting, might be the way of the future. Kindred also provides opportunities for safe and affordable housing by working with our community partners to find solutions that provide homes for those who need it the most. Home Share was selected as a recipient of The Kindred Charitable Fund in 2024, receiving a $9,000 grant to continue their work in providing safe and affordable housing for those in need.

Improving accessibility to affordable housing is important to Kindred, as is recognizing the capacity of community partners to affect change. In October 2022, Kindred Credit Union launched the Affordable Housing GICs and Loans, in partnership with the Waterloo Region Community Foundation (WRCF). The goal of the Affordable Housing GICs and Loans is to help organizations provide long-term, permanent affordable housing. The Affordable Housing GICs allow depositors to invest their money knowing that it is tied to a lending solution that aims to provide affordable housing.

To learn more about Community Justice Initiatives Waterloo Region Home Share program and how you can support this important work, please contact Alison Harris or visit CJI online.

Kate Pearce

Kate is passionate about supporting and enabling communities to connect, make an impact, and thrive through the development of strong, trusting partnerships. Through her work, Kate turns commitments into action and works to bring Kindred’s purpose to life.

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