In 2002, long before the general public recognized the growing affordable housing crisis that is apparent today, a few far-sighted individuals from Ottawa’s Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities came together to create the Multi-Faith Housing Initiative (MHI ).
They eventually pooled personal funds for a down payment that enabled MHI to purchase a small, slightly dilapidated house on Kent Street for five former homeless residents. From these humble beginnings, MHI has grown into a social housing provider of nearly 200 rental units, providing safe, dignified and permanent rental housing to more than 400 people, many of them families with children. Projects currently in development are expected to double MHI’s holdings within three years. Today, MHI’s membership base has grown to also include Baha’i, Hindu and Unitarian congregations.
Fran Klodawsky, a longtime Jewish resident of Ottawa and member of Temple Israel, immediately embraced CIM’s vision. “As the first Chairman of the Board of MHI, I am very proud of the many Jewish people who have contributed significantly to the development of MHI. Kehillat Beth Israel, Temple Israel, Adath Shalom, Jewish Federation of Ottawa and Jewish Family Services are all members and have played an active role in the past, present and future of CIM.
Fran speaks passionately about her involvement with CIM. “The opportunity to live my Jewish values by working with others from different faith groups and backgrounds to expand good quality affordable housing in Ottawa has been a very rewarding part of my life for the past twenty years.
Jewish religious leaders, including Rabbi Eytan Kenter, Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg and Rabbi Steven Garten as well as Rabbi Reuven Bulka Z”L, Rabbi Michael Fine, Rabbi Menachem Blum and Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton have been or continue to be involved in CIM’s community building activities. , including: learning about homelessness in Ottawa in our shuls during Sukkot, preparing matzos and teaching the meaning of Passover to non-Jewish residents and volunteers of The Haven, and participating in CIM’s annual Tulipathon. Another MHI volunteer, David Spring of Kehillat Beth Israel, notes that “MHI allows me to meet and work with non-Jewish members of the wider Ottawa community in acts of Tikkun Olam (making the world a better place), rather than waiting for tragedy in a church, a mosque or a synagogue to gather in mourning.
Volunteers are the cornerstone of the CIM. According to Adrian Benjamin, CIM’s Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager, “Volunteers help with everything from residents’ community gardens, to food security activities, to overseeing the governance of the organization, design and construction of new housing, communications, fundraising and property maintenance. Adrian says, “Anyone can volunteer at ICM. You do not have to
be a member of a congregation; we welcome anyone with a passion and the skills to ensure access to safe and affordable housing for all.
The most immediate way to get involved is to attend this year’s Tulipathon at Dow’s Lake on Sunday, May 29. As Fran explains, “In this year of CIM’s twentieth anniversary, we invite all members of the Jewish community in Ottawa to walk and/or Encourage Walkers, including seniors, teens, families with children and anyone else interested in supporting a good cause. One hundred percent of all net proceeds from this year’s event, as in the past, will be used to subsidize rents for CIM residents who need the money the most.
There is still a lot of work to do until everyone has a place to call home. Some exciting initiatives in the planning stage include partnering with an Ottawa Anglican congregation to build affordable rental housing for large families on a church property on Merivale Road. Another CIM dream is to be an integral part of the NCC’s vision to build an inclusive community on LeBreton Flats, so stay tuned!
If you would like to donate to Tulipathon – or register yourself as a fundraiser – make a general donation to the event at multifaithhousing.ca/tulipathon or choose to sponsor one of the following team pages from Jewish organizations that are ICM Members:
For more information, please visit multifaithhousing.ca