Indwell innovation growing Londons affordable housing options

January 29
By Sean Meyer
Indwell is a non-profit organization with some four decades of history in building affordable housing communities and providing support for people seeking wellness and belonging. 
To date, the organization has more than 500 people living in 11 communities across Hamilton, Woodstock and Simcoe. Indwell’s expansion is bringing it to the Forest City with a pair of projects as it sets up London as a regional office from which it can continue to expand into southwestern Ontario.
Julie Ryan is new to Indwell — having started with the organization Jan. 2 — but she’s certainly no stranger to community engagement and fundraising, essential roles in getting more people in London housed in safe and welcoming spaces.
“I’m still new to the organization, but everything I’ve learned tells me they have a really great model, this idea that people need community,” Julie said. “When you have been marginalized for much of your life, sometimes community is hard to find. What Indwell does is create these communities.”
Indwell either builds from new or renovates existing spaces, providing the majority of affordable housing through either studio or one-bedroom apartments. 
People who live at Indwell, Julie explains, have experienced homelessness, face mental illness, active addictions, or sometimes have physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to live without some form of support. 
Indwell has been around for 40 years, but the first 25 or so of those years were spent operating a group home in Hamilton. It was around 2000 that the organization made the decision to expand its mission.
Individuals applying for housing are often referred to Indwell through various partners and social service organizations.
“When you give people supportive housing it helps them be more stable, lead more fulfilling lives, and participate in their community,” Julie said. “The supports can be anything from connections to social services in the community, help navigating different governmental programs . . . in some places we have nursing support, social workers; it really depends on the needs of the tenants.”
Plans are for Indwell to welcome people into its first building, 356 Dundas St. (across from Morrissey House), which it will operate with the long-term goal of owning the building as well. 
Construction is expected to be complete by this spring with the hope of moving people into the building’s 66 apartments this summer. Indwell’s second building — construction of which is expected to begin in 2020 — will be at 744 Dundas St., the former Embassy Hotel with another 70 units.
Getting all this work done so quickly has benefited, Julie readily admits, from Indwell having set up at Innovation Works. 
The move made sense, she adds, because of the collaborative nature of the space and the technical infrastructure it provides.
One of the biggest advantages of being an Innovation Works co-tenant, Julie said, is all the connections she has already made in just one month within the space.
For example, she happens to sit directly across from the desk of Poverty Research Centre at King’s co-ordinator Mike Courey, who she’s already had, “several really great conversations with. That’s exciting.”
Julie explains those types of connections are important, particularly because when some individual or group is working on something with considerable social good, “like affordable housing,” people naturally want to help. 
However, the organization is also committed in making sure it takes everyone’s opinions into account.
“We want to make sure we have the support of the community and that we are addressing any concerns people might have around affordable housing in their neighbourhoods,” she said. “Being at Innovation Works will help connect me with people who can help facilitate that community acceptance and support.”
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