By Martha Holmen
A mother and her three children were welcomed home for Christmas on Dec. 9, thanks to Habitat for Humanity GTA and the Diocese of Toronto.
In total, nine families invited sponsors, volunteers and representatives from Habitat GTA to their homes for a dedication and key ceremony. The families met their sponsor organizations and were presented with the keys to their new homes, as drivers on Brimley Road honked in support of the event.
The diocese made a $100,000 gift to Habitat GTA last January to support the building of affordable housing in the Brimley Road and Lawrence Avenue area of Toronto. The gift was a tithe from the diocese’s Ministry Allocation Fund and is the largest single donation from a religious organization in Habitat GTA’s history.
For Marianne Romain and her three children, who have moved into the diocese-sponsored house, the day marked a moment of transformation in their lives. “I have so much to say. I still can’t believe it,” she said.
Ms. Romain immigrated to Canada from Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean, in 1989. Since then, she and her children have moved frequently from home to home, most recently living in a rodent-infested building in an unsafe neighbourhood.
“I’ve struggled, going from house to house, apartment to apartment,” she said. “I work, but the money never seems to be enough as a single parent.”
Now the family has its own two-storey, 1,300-square-foot, semi-detached house with three bedrooms and underground parking.
“I never gave up hope. I always had faith, I always prayed,” Ms. Romain said. Under the arrangement with Habitat GTA, families receive 20-year, interest-free mortgages, with monthly payments that never exceed 30 per cent of the total family income.
Ms. Romain and her children, Scyrilson, Toyan and Tricia, worked together to accomplish their 500 hours of labour for Habitat GTA, in lieu of a cash down payment. They volunteered on the construction of their own home and for a variety of other Habitat projects, while also attending training courses in areas such as personal finance, mortgages and insurance.
“It wasn’t easy, doing the volunteering, but it’s worth it today,” said Ms. Romain. “I come in here and I think, Wow, I can’t believe I have a house.”
Bishop Patrick Yu, area bishop for York-Scarborough, was invited to give a devotion at the beginning of the dedication ceremony. Acknowledging the presence of many faith groups among the families and volunteers, he spoke about the commonalities between different religions.
“In my experience, I do not know of one religion that does not say we need to do justice and love our neighbours,” he said. “We are here together from all faiths because we cherish this common humanity. It is why we build homes for people, no matter what their traditions are.”
In addition to the keys to their home, Bishop Yu presented the Romain family with a Bible, at their request.
As she and her children get settled in their safe, comfortable home, Ms. Romain said she looks forward to cooking some of her favourite Dominica dishes in the new kitchen she helped to build.
“There is no amount of words I can use to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “I have a home.”