No Room in the Inn supports housing for mentally ill

Citrus Court, a housing project of the Canadian Mental Health Association, has a community garden for its residents.

PHOTO SUPPLIED

Citrus Court, a housing project of the Canadian Mental Health Association, has a community garden for its residents.

December 15, 2014
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Joseph's face saddened as he turned and walked out of the inn. No room. Again.

Yet Mary, heavy with child, was about to give birth.

Finally he turned to the only shelter he could see – the stable behind the inn. Warmed by the heat of the stable animals, a bed of soft straw, and Mary, surrounded by the animals, gave birth to her son, Our Saviour, Jesus.

Cradling her child, Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in the manger. And love surrounded him.

For too many walking the Edmonton streets in this bitter weather, there is no room at the inn, no place to be warm, safe, to sleep in comfort.

Some never make it through the night and freeze to death.

To answer this desperate need, No Room in the Inn was launched in 1999. The Edmonton and District Council of Churches, the Quality of Life Commission and archdiocesan Social Justice Commission through Bob McKeon developed the joint project.

Representatives from the various groups choose a different affordable housing project and organization to support each year. During the past 10 years, No Room in the Inn has raised more than $350,000 for various projects.

PEOPLE IN NEED

McKeon describes it as a practical way "people in churches can contribute to affordable, safe housing for people very much in need."

This need could be for a variety of reasons. Each year, the collection targets a different project – Harry Holt Place, Housing First, Wings of Providence, Oxford Houses.

The rent that the residents pay comes a variety of sources – social assistance, employment and AISH. The funds they provide for rent in one of these subsidized dwellings would be affordable.

This year's focus is on the Canadian Mental Health Association's (CMHA) Citrus Court. Designed for those suffering from both mental illness and low incomes, Citrus Court needs a new roof. Without this housing, many of these distressed souls would be homeless.

The CMHA, says McKeon, runs five or six projects in Edmonton. Citrus Court is a project opposite St. Joseph's High School on 109th Street – a 27-unit walk-up apartment that is about 30 years old.

The cost of Citrus Court's roof is estimated at $170,000 and No Room in the Inn hopes to raise $60,000 to $70,000 for the project, McKeon said.

Funds come from other sources too. "It really helps to have the leverage to say, 'We have half, a third of it covered.' They also have some of it covered themselves," assured McKeon.

"We ask people to donate to the actual agency," he said, urging donors to make their cheques out to Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton and put No Room in the Inn on the cheque.

He estimated 50 to 60 congregations from six denominations will participate.

GOOD NEIGHBOUR

When the No Room in the Inn committee visited Citrus Court last summer, it saw a beautiful community garden and "the building is well run," said McKeon. "They're a good neighbour."

No Room in the Inn offers the opportunity to learn more about local organizations while supporting affordable housing in the city, he said.

As well, by having the potentially homeless safe and warm in their own homes, it keeps them out of the hospitals, courts and jails.

Archbishop Richard Smith supports the project: "Citrus Court provides needed support for men and women with mental illness who are at a high risk of poverty and homelessness.

"This year's No Room in the Inn campaign can provide an excellent opportunity for parishes to learn more about community resources for supporting those with mental illness."