The National Housing Day that almost didn’t happen
MHI's interfaith National Housing Day celebration was scheduled for November 19th, 2023. The guest speakers were set, the program was printed, and the refreshments orders were ready to go. But the event almost didn't happen.
As many of you know, the event was originally scheduled for Ottawa's City Hall in the Jean Pigott Hall where it has been hosts several times in the past. In light of the ongoing protests in downtown Ottawa, City hall staff deemed the location to be too risky late on Friday afternoon before the event was to take place on the following Sunday.
MHI staff were in a scramble. What could they do? Thankfully the celebration was rescued by the strong interventions of Councilors David Hill, Matt Luloff and the Mayor myself (who was scheduled to speak at the event). MHI Staff and volunteers were grateful to them for believing in the importance of this gathering, and responding so rapidly to the SOS.
MHI staff worked with the City of Ottawa staff to pivot to a new location; The Horticultural Building at Lansdowne Park. On Sunday, staff hit the ground running and from an outsiders perspective, no one knew any different. As they say, the show must go on.
And it did. MHI's National Housing Day celebration was a resounding success; a room filled with Ottawa City Councilors, affordable housing influencers, MHI Patrons, donors, volunteers, and supporters.
The event kicked off with a heartfelt welcome from Rev. Fred Demaray, MHI Patron, Canadian Baptists of ON, and Nadine El-Hawary, MHI Board Member and Membership & Outreach Committee member. They recognized our political dignitaries in attendance such as, His Worship of Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa City Councilors Mr. David Hill, Ms. Laine Johnson, Ms. Marty Carr, Mr. Wilson Lo, Ms. Theresa Kavanagh, Ms. Chandra Pasma, as well as former City Councilor and CityShapes founder Catherine McKenney.
Elder Albert Dumont of the Algonquin Nations welcomed those in attendance to the territory and touched on the deep need for indigenous housing. Imam Sikander Hashmi from the Kanata Muslim Association delivered an insightful prayer from the Quran.
His Worship of Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe gave an engaging speech on the power of unity and the ability to achieve a common goal, like Multifaith Housing Initiative has done with the support of the community. The audience listened attentively as affordable housing has become a critical issue to the citizens of Ottawa.
The keynote speaker, Carl Nicholson, Retired ED of Catholic Centre for Immigrants & an MHI Civic Patron, took the stage. He outlined a multi-level tier of challenges MHI will face with the expansive development projects such as Dream at LeBreton Flats and The Anchor. Two of MHI largest upcoming projects that will see MHI increase the number of units and families they serve by a significant amount. The attendees were dazzled by a young Violinist Firdaus El-Darymli who is a tenant of MHI's The Haven. Just Voices, a local choir, closed out the event with a rendition of Bill Wither's Lean on Me.
Thank you to everyone who attended National Housing Day. To those who lent a hand or who simply showed up, we could not carry out our mission of affordable housing for all without you.