Aug 31, 2021

Innovative Programs to Improve Safe and Affordable Housing

It’s been a long day. You just want to flop on the couch and put your feet up. Now imagine your home, which should be your haven, doesn’t feel safe. Or that you can hardly call your friend’s brother’s couch “home”. 

Safe and affordable housing is a right, yet it’s out of reach for many people. The waiting list for affordable housing in Waterloo Region was 3,000 individuals or families in 2001. Today, amidst a hot residential real estate market that’s putting pressure on the rental supply, the need has doubled to more than 6,000. Adding to this challenge, many people face disproportionate barriers to access housing that is affordable. This includes seniors, newcomers, racialized communities and Indigenous peoples, and those with disabilities. 

Even if an individual or family is able to access housing they can afford, that living situation may not be safe. For example, safety can be compromised when there is gender-based violence in the home or a landlord allows for unsafe conditions at a rental property. 

Kindred lends to thousands of members to support them in purchasing a home. Yet our credit union’s purpose drives us to play a more nuanced role in our communities—we’re driven to contribute to the creation of safe and affordable housing for all. We advance our commitment to safe and affordable housing by partnering with organizations that have expertise working in this area. We recently spoke with two of our community partners to learn how they contribute to the access of safe and affordable housing across the province. 

“People are more successful in leaving violent situations when they use our moving service.”

— Courtney Waterfall, Chapter Director, Waterloo Region

Shelter Movers is a national, volunteer-powered charitable organization that provides safe moving and storage services at no cost to women and children fleeing abuse. In collaboration with local businesses and community agencies, they support families transitioning to a life free of violence. 

Building on the success of their regional model, Shelter Movers recently launched a chapter in Waterloo Region, where there is significant need to support people leaving violence. Shelter Movers has found that more women seek help, and are able to stay in their new living situation, if they’re able to take their personal items and store them until a new arrangement is in place. However, the general lack of affordable housing availability has meant that the need for storage is growing faster than ever. 

Shelter Movers received a Kindred Charitable Fund grant this year which helped to support operational costs including storage, and a recent fundraiser focused specifically on this need. Please reach out to donations@sheltermovers.com if you are able to help. 

“With a nonjudgemental spirit, Unmute presents a rehearsal for real-life situations of domestic violence. Friends and neighbours who may suspect or witness domestic violence are given the tools and confidence to intervene in safe ways.“

— Kimberlee Walker, Education and Outreach Manager

Theatre of the Beat is a Canadian theatre company working to prompt conversations on social justice and its intersection with beliefs held within the communities they serve. Earlier this year, Theatre of the Beat partnered with a number of organizations to develop an original interactive play called Unmute, which is about a family that’s experiencing domestic abuse; for this family, home is not safe. 

This innovative production has served as a training tool to help community members respond to the increased risk of family violence during the pandemic. Unmute uses a style called ‘forum theatre’. Watching online, audience members can ‘unmute’ themselves in the middle of the performance to give suggestions to the actor to respond to challenging situations. Then, the actors run through the play again, reworking it a number of times with the audience in effort to find a better resolution to the story. 

Theatre of the Beat used a grant from the Kindred Charitable Fund to increase community access to the production. 

Sheila de Peuter, BComm, MMCCU

Communication and Content Manager Sheila is an experienced marketing communications professional with a depth of experience working with credit unions and a passion for co-operatives.

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