Courtesy Photo

Sandy Casselman
Record Staff

WILLIAMSBURG – The House of Lazarus Community Outreach Mission (HOL) recently purchased a building with the intention of creating two affordable housing units for rent this October in Eastern Ontario’s Dundas County.

“We are thrilled to offer two families a place to live affordably,” HOL executive director Cathy Ashby said. “We receive calls weekly from people who need a place to rent. Landlords are selling their houses and people have nowhere to go.”

Located in Williamsburg, a small village in the Municipality of South Dundas, the building needs a few renovations before it will be ready to rent, but Ashby said her goal is to see tenants moved in by Oct. 1 of this year. The rather large building will provide two apartments, a four-bedroom, and a three-bedroom. Both apartments will have access to the sizable backyard.

As with most HOL projects and initiatives, volunteers are needed. In addition to general renovations, the local mission will also need volunteers to help strip wallpaper, paint, and do yard work.

The purchase of the house is part of HOL’s Linking Hands housing initiative, Places for People. The purpose of this initiative is to provide affordable housing for those in need, as well as direct mentorship along with a trust savings account for tenants.

“To bring Places for People Dundas County from a concept to reality has taken a lot of hard work by many people,” Ashby said. “This project not only provides a place to rent affordably but also a mentor to guide tenants to reach their personal goals and the establishment of a trust fund for each tenant to be used for emergencies or to pursue their goals.”

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, most Linking Hands projects were put on hold. HOL staff focused all their energy and resources on addressing the increased poverty issues created or exacerbated by the worldwide emergency.

“COVID-19 certainly slowed the project; however, it was an amazing feeling when a few months ago investors came forward and a building was found,” Ashby said. “House of Lazarus also received a grant from the United Church Canada Foundation that will cover start-up and renovation costs. We are hopeful to have two families housed by Oct. 1.”

With financial backing from an outside investor, as well as a $50,000 United Church of Canada Foundation Seeds of Hope housing grant already in pocket, HOL is ready to tackle necessary renovations. In its beginning stages, HOL staff will take on the roles of landlord, superintendent, and mentor.

To be more effective in its pandemic response, HOL joined other organizations in the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG), as well as Cornwall and Akwesasne, to take on some of the many issues created by the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns, including issues around housing. Locally, a group of concerned individuals, organizations, and businesses came together to create the Dundas County Housing Initiative Committee.

“We are grateful for the Linking Hands Places for People Steering Committee and the Dundas County Housing Initiative Committee for their dedication to this project,” Ashby said.

Going forward, the Dundas County Housing Initiative Committee, along with HOL staff and its board of directors, will oversee decisions about the Places for People project. HOL, with the help of this committee, will find families in need of affordable housing, who are also open to the mentoring aspect of the initiative.

HOL is a community outreach mission that offers food, clothing, and household goods to those in need, serving not only HOL food bank clients but those of neighbouring food banks as well. With an eye toward eliminating poverty in all its forms, HOL’s Linking Hands initiative focuses on finding and addressing the many gaps in services and resources for residents in its surrounding communities.

The Dundas County Housing Initiative Committee focuses on the many housing-related issues some residents are facing in both the township of North Dundas and the Municipality of South Dundas. Currently the group is working on creating affordable housing units, a roommate registry, and a landlord registry. They are also focused on creating an Emergency Homeless Plan with emergency housing opportunities for those living in the county, as well as creating and distributing Hope Bags for the Homeless. The group has also made education and awareness a priority, as those not facing poverty may be unaware of the realities of the current housing crisis.

To learn more about the Places for People initiative, contact Cathy Ashby by email (cashby@houseoflazarus.com) or by phone (613-989-3830). For more information on becoming an HOL volunteer, contact Vicki Cane (vcane@houseoflazarus.com), and for more on HOL’s ongoing advocacy work, contact Kristina McDermott (kmcdermott@houseoflazarus.com). HOL also has a website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

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