A donation of nearly $60,000 from the No Room in the Inn campaign will help renovate Northern Arms, an affordable housing building in Edmonton.Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media

Nativity inspires Edmonton churches to give the gift of affordable housing to poor and vulnerable

Christian churches in Edmonton have raised nearly $60,000 to help renovate an apartment building that is home to low-income families and people struggling with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

The money collected this year will go a long way toward improving the lives of persons in our community who are homeless or risk becoming homeless,” said Julien Hammond, chairman of No Room in the Inn, an annual Christmas campaign that raises money for affordable housing projects.

“(This is) such a great way to show that there is indeed room in God’s inn for everyone.”

Julien Hammond

Hammond is the ecumenical and interfaith relations officer for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, which has been a part of No Room in the Inn since it began in 1999. Donations came from congregations in 10 Christian denominations, individuals, and the Edmonton Community Foundation.

The Northern Arms building, just outside the downtown core, is one of four affordable housing projects operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association. At more than 50 years old, it is in dire need of replacement doors and windows. The $59,483.87 raised through No Room in the Inn will help pay the bulk of that renovation.

“Without stable housing, you can’t work on your mental wellness, regardless of having mental health issues or not,” said Gayle Haynes, housing services manager for CMHA Edmonton.

“The generous support of parishioners and faith leaders has made it possible for those in our community, who are homeless or at risk, to have safe and affordable housing … to have a home.”

There are an estimated 1,752 homeless people in Edmonton, including 146 children and 157 people aged 18 to 24, according to a Homeward Trust report in 2016.

While the original proposal was to replace flooring and appliances, Haynes says that the priority at Northern Arms now is to replace the doors and windows — which will be welcomed by the tenants.

“They’re going to take pride of ownership and feel safe and secure in their home.”

The No Room in the Inn campaign is organized by the Edmonton and District Council of Churches. It takes its name from the biblical story of Jesus’ birth, in which Joseph and Mary found no room at the inn at Bethlehem. The project has raised more than $970,000 since it began almost 20 years ago.

Past recipients of donations include homeless advocacy groups like Homeward Trust and Wings of Providence, a group that provides housing for women and children escaping domestic abuse.

Haynes said the Canadian Mental Health Association has received donations from the No Room in the Inn campaign in the past. In 2014, the CMHA replaced the roof of the Citrus Court building, another one of its affordable housing properties.

Left to right: Ione Challborn, Executive Director, CMHA-Edmonton, Dr. John Wright, United Church, Julien Hammond, Roman Catholic, Ms. Gail Haynes (shaking hands, on left), Manage Housing Services, CMHA-Edmonton, Rev. Christina Bellsmith, President, Edmonton & District Council of Churches, Virginia Sharek, Ukrainian Catholic, Rev. Dr. Don Mayne (shaking hands, on right), United Church, Ms. Celia Smyth, United Church, Dan Greene, United Church. Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media