Heart Housing Inc.

Heart Housing Inc.

Rev. Mark Kroeker had some simple advice for congregation members seeking to help those in need - "Just Do It." It was with this philosophy that Heart Housing Inc. was formed.

The focus of Heart Housing Inc. is to improve living conditions for immigrant families in Winnipeg by purchasing a home and through education and practical hands on experience gradually transfer affordable home ownership to the residents.

Heart Housing Inc. was formed by a small group of people who are “test driving” a collaborative, non-profit, affordable housing project in Winnipeg.

“We care about the needs of families who struggle daily to make ends meet. Food, clothing and shelter are basic needs that all persons have a right to access,” Ruth Vince President of the group recently commented in an interview.

In addition to Ruth, Mark Kroeker and Judi Chambers form the Board of Directors. They are responsible members of the community and together with their local churches want to follow their Christian faith by forming Heart Housing Inc. and provide support to new Canadians by helping them find suitable housing.

In July, 2005 they purchased a duplex at 381 College Avenue which has been completely renovated with volunteer help. Together with donations received from the community and a benefactor who made an $8,500 donation; the Jubilee Fund loan guarantee for their mortgage provided the final piece of the financing they needed.

Their goal is to provide housing to new Canadians who have been living in Canada for a year or two, who have steady employment and are getting near to being able to purchase a home. The target group is low income new Canadians, those families who have special disability needs and those families who do not yet have the down payment to buy a home. Another option would be enabling home ownership through a unique rent to own savings plan. By using volunteer labour and donations from the public, they are able to provide very low-cost housing.

Two families were identified by the Interfaith Immigration Council to be the first tenants. One couple Blessing Okafor, her husband Benjamin and their four children arrived in Canada in October 2005 from Nigeria. Blessing is a nurse and her husband is an aircraft engineer. When they moved into the home, they had not been able to find work in their respective fields. Aside from not finding work in their expertise area, Blessing indicated the biggest adjustments came with getting used to a colder climate and living in a smaller city than their native Delta, in Nigeria, which has five million people. They worked with the volunteers from Heart Housing with the painting and renovation of the house. When Heart Housing wanted to sell the home, the family choose not to purchase the house on College Avenue and instead moved to another home.

The model developed by Heart Housing Inc. can be used by church congregations and other interested non-profit groups to make a similar “social investment” in affordable housing.