By Deron Hamel
People who are impacted by the housing crisis need more than just roofs over their heads; they need safe homes in safe communities, says Paul Shepherd.
And since a market-based approach to creating safe homes in safe communities is not affordable for many, community-based responses, such as Belonging Brant’s Tiny Homes Working Circle, are needed to make this a reality, adds Paul, a local minister with the United Church of Canada.
“The myth that ‘success’ means having your own home has led many people to feel isolated,” Paul says. “The real win is safe homes within safe community.
“People need to be safe, yes. But people are not supposed to live alone — we need each other.”
“My own passion around tiny homes is more the community possibilities. People need to be safe, yes. But people are not supposed to live alone — we need each other.”
Belonging Brant has been facilitating the Tiny Homes Working Circle since April 2022. The working circle is a community-driven response to address Brantford’s housing crisis.
Ideally, Paul says the housing crisis needs to be addressed by creating safe, secure homes that are in close proximity to each other, “so that as well as building small homes, we are at the same time building community.”
Paul points to a new 26-room building on Colborne Street in Brantford as something he sees as a promising example of what he calls a “built-in community,” so the good news is that more of these types of homes are possible.
In his role as a minister, Paul often finds himself working with people who are vulnerable when it comes to housing. A favourite recent success has been helping someone find a safe, clean home.
“Helping make that happen felt huge for both of us,” he says. “I’d like to see more of that.”
Asked what would be the best thing that could happen next in Brantford to address the housing crisis, Paul says more community forums like the Tiny Homes Working Circle, which he has participated in, would be a step in the right direction.
He also suggests those involved with community forums look for housing successes in other cities to use as a “model community” that could be adopted in Brantford.
From his end, Paul says he will keep on doing his part through his work with the United Church and with community groups like the Tiny Homes Working Circle to help people affected by the housing crisis get the homes and supports they need.
“I continue to listen to people and try to better understand what they want,” he says.
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