The House of Lazarus Team. Back row, left to right: Jen Bass, Kim Merkley, Hope VanNoppen, Vicki Cane, Tina Zersch, June Lamoureux, Linda Johnston. Front row: – Liz Russell, Abby Trizisky, Kristina McDermott, Tanya Hermer, Amanda Fox, Connie Warren, Cathy Ashby, Marianne Villemaire. Morin Photo
SOUTH MOUNTAIN – The House of Lazarus, (HOL), held their 2022 annual general meeting at the South Mountain Branch of the SD&G Library on Wed., June 15.
The meeting highlighted the challenges the HOL has faced over the past year, as a result of Covid, resulting in staffing shortages, and an ever-expanding housing crisis.
Cathy Ashby, the executive director of HOL said in her report at the meeting: “The HOL team has met the challenges with dedication, patience, and lots of hard work. Our team not only met the challenges but surpassed them.”
She explained how HOL was able to establish an outdoor selling area as a result of pandemic regulations that would only let them have a 15 per cent capacity inside their store.
“During closures, the team revitalized Mountain Treasurers. Many hours were spent creating our new online store, House of Lazarus, and Vintage at shophol.ca,” said Ashby.
Ashby believes the pandemic added to the existing housing crisis.
She said that HOL has never had the number of issues it has been asked to address as a result of the housing crisis.
“Landlords selling or renovating, people from out of our region purchasing houses, and driving house prices higher, and limited rental stock are all contributing factors in the housing crisis.”
The housing crisis, according to Ashby, has contributed to the number of people in the region having to live in camping trailers, sleeping in their vehicles, having to stay in abusive situations and couch surfing.
HOL is a member of the Dundas County Housing Initiative Committee and was the author of the Dundas County Housing Report.
Kristina McDermott and Ashby presented the report to the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry council.
“The Counties passed a resolution based on several of our recommendations. The resolution was a positive step in the right direction in creating affordable housing options,” said Ashby.
The Places for People Program spearheaded by HOL, became a reality in 2022. This year, HOL was able to purchase a building in Williamsburg that will provide two, three-bedroom apartments of affordable housing. The tenants in the apartments pay 30 per cent of their income toward rent. Cornwall Housing subsidizes the units based on their market value.
HOL has not just provided a safe and affordable place for people to live, they have also offered mentorship to these families and have set up a trust fund for them.
“These are the first subsidized family units in Dundas County,” said Ashby.
She said, “HOL worked with the United Way of Stormont, Dundas , and Glengarry, Cornwall, Akwesasne, (SDGCA) to facilitate Last Resort funding across SDG, Cornwall and Akwesasne. The funding was used for heat, hydro, rent arrears as well as first and last month’s rent. This funding has housed 21 individuals who were homeless, and kept another 94 families housed. This work was often difficult, but very rewarding. A special thank you goes to the special private donors who made this program possible.”
Mark vanDelst is the past HOL board chair. His term ended this year.
He said, “The success, and outreach of the House of Lazarus is absolutely dependent on the community that supports us, and that we in turn support. It is simply beautiful to see a true communal relationship in action.”
The annual general meeting featured a guest speaker, the executive director of The United Way/Centraide of SD&G, Juliette Labossiere.
She said, “Mother Theresa once said: “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
I truly feel that is the principle behind the kind of work that I do, and the work that I do so proudly, shoulder to shoulder with your organization.”
Labossiere said that HOL was leading the way in helping its community and was being led by exceptional individuals.
She said, “Your organization is setting the bar, pushing others to do more, moving this community to be better. The work Cathy and the House of Lazarus is doing outside of your region is fueling the winds of change, and by helping the entire region, we will in turn inevitably help your clients. Thank you for what you do, thank you for sharing your expertise, your stories, your passion. We are all better because of it.”
Labossiere focused on housing.
She said, “let us begin by exploring the work Cathy and Kristina did when Linking Hands created the Dundas County Housing Report. This report was originally created solely for the benefit House of Lazarus. It discussed the needs and potential for improvements regarding housing in Dundas, but it also became a beacon of possibility for the rest of SDGC&A, who was also plagued by a housing crisis and did not even know by which end to start.”
Labossiere said, “Like a butterfly batting its wings over the ocean only to make a hurricane on the other side of the world; the work Cathy and the house of Lazarus is doing outside of your region is fueling the winds of change, and by helping the entire region, [which] will in turn inevitably help your clients.
Thank you for what you do. Thank you for sharing your expertise, your stories, your passion; we are all better because of it.”