We’ve all heard the stories about how difficult it is to find affordable rental housing in Waterloo region. For young adults aging out of the child foster care system, this can prove impossible. For many, finding a safe and affordable place to live can seem unattainable. Community Justice Initiatives Waterloo Region (CJI), a restorative justice agency based in Kitchener, is helping to make the dream of living in a safe and affordable home a reality for people – by using the principles and skills they employ is their other mediation programs.
CJI is a non-profit organization known world-wide for starting the first modern Restorative Justice program. For over 40 years, they have continuously responded to community needs by creatively, and innovatively applying restorative justice principles to new problems. To address the housing shortage, CJI developed Waterloo Region Home Share.
Waterloo Region Home Share seeks to connect people who have unused space in their homes, with those who are seeking a safe, affordable place to live. According to Julie Friesen, the Director of Programs at CJI, “we realized that there was a significant amount of housing that was being underutilized – think of a senior currently living alone in the house that they raised their family in.” The Home Share program is a free, supportive process that matches home providers and home seekers. 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 process involved in Home Share is comprehensive: from beginning to end it includes multiple follow-ups to ensure there is compatibility between Home Providers and Home Seekers and a grounded understanding of living arrangements. The process begins with registering with the Waterloo Region Home Share program, continues with an interview, individual peer mentor support, a compatibility match introductory meeting, home visits to the space for evaluation, reference checks, and several back-and-forth mediation meetings to complete the Living Arrangement Memorandum of Understanding.
The Home Share concept is not new and has had success in other communities. Interestingly, it’s a good fit for a restorative justice agency such as CJI, due to the expertise needed in the areas of mediation and conflict resolution. Restorative justice is a way of addressing conflict that engages the all sides in a respectful dialogue to create meaningful solutions. Community Justice Initiatives’ goal with Waterloo Region Home Share is to assist people to have a healthy and supportive living arrangement using restorative practice, by being the intermediary between Home Providers and Home Seekers.
Julie is quick to point out that, “this is not a rental arrangement, it is a cooperative housing arrangement.” Home seekers contribute to the cost of running the home and shares skills such as cooking, gardening, or other things needed to keep a home running smoothly.
With the help of the Kindred Credit Union Charitable Fund, CJI has been able to support 5 youth aging out of the child foster care system find stable, dignified, supportive, and affordable housing – and they are on track to support 10 additional home seekers in the coming months. CJI’s vision is to inspire safe, healthy, and peaceful communities, one resolution at a time. With each Home Share success story, CJI is one step closer to achieving that vision for our community.