Building Bridges to Belonging: Indwell’s Journey Towards Inclusive Housing and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)!
Indwell is a Christian charity, dedicated to establishing supportive affordable residential communities that foster the overall well-being and inclusion of individuals who seek a sense of belonging. It supports a diverse range of tenants, including individuals of all ages, genders, and with various life experiences. Many of these tenants experience mental and physical challenges, which pose obstacles to securing safe, affordable housing and maintaining full-time employment. Indwell also provides long term solutions to individuals as they progress from homelessness towards improved health and stability. As the largest developer of new supportive affordable housing in Ontario, Indwell’s mission is to serve people seeking housing and a sense of belonging, and to create a safe and inclusive community within their buildings.
Indwell’s origins can be traced back to the early 1970s when Siny Prinzen and her late husband John identified a pressing need within local churches to support vulnerable adults dealing with mental health issues. Given that their home already served as a gathering place for young individuals, John wanted to explore whether providing personalized assistance could positively impact the life of struggling individuals. Since the beginning, Indwell has continually expanded the range and number of housing options it offers. At present, Indwell provides supportive housing services to over 1111 households in southern Ontario, with programs operating in Hamilton, Waterloo Region, London, Mississauga, Simcoe, St. Thomas, and Woodstock.
Additionally, Indwell also supports residents with round-the-clock on-site services, such as connecting tenants with resources in the community, food security programs and skills training in budgeting and cooking.
Indwell and the SDGs
Julie Ryan, Community Engagement Coordinator from Indwell, joined the SDG Cities Academy to learn how to effectively implement the SDGs at a local level. Through the Academy, they gained a new perspective on how the SDG framework can be aligned with their work. Moreover, they also learned about the different ways in which SDGs can help them measure their impact and conducted studies to evaluate the well-being of their tenants.
The most beneficial part of the [SDG Cities] Academy, the light bulb for me, was the ‘if-then statements’, if we do this, then we’ll meet this goal. How to set that up, talking about how you identify and measure your goals… that’s really helpful.Julie Ryan, SDG Cities Academy Alumni
In 2019, Indwell re-launched its annual Tenant Survey (see above) to collect feedback from tenants to identify areas strengths and improvement. The data collected from this survey will help staff members to improve both new and existing buildings at Indwell.
Indwell aligns closely with SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) as they aim to provide safe and affordable housing that respects the local history and architecture, providing tenants with a place they can feel proud of, along with support and on-site services including recreationists, nurses, social workers and therapists among others.
Their food program fulfills tenants’ nutritional needs and contributes to SDG2 (Zero Hunger) through its emphasis on teaching budget-friendly cooking along with opportunities to participate in community events that includes having meals, cooking and working on gardens.
Indwell also aligns with SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) as they use energy-efficient buildings. For example, the Embassy Commons is built to the Passive House standard which relies on a combination of thick insulation, tightly sealed building envelopes, energy recovery ventilation, avoidance of thermal bridging, and triple pane windows. This results in a drastic reduction in operating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and heat loss during cold weather. On the roof is Indwell’s largest and most efficient solar system, comprising 425-Watt Photovoltaic panels totalling 216 units. This robust setup is projected to generate approximately 95,000 kWh annually, equivalent to the energy required to power ten single-family homes for an entire year.
… there’s a program called the Ontario Energy Support Program that some of our tenants are qualified for… [they] end up having a surplus on their account, because they pay so little in energy bills that they don’t even pay the minimum of their credit.Julie Ryan, SDG Cities Academy Alumni
Affordable homes with low utility bills, wrap-around services, high accessibility and energy-efficient practices, are a few examples of Indwell’s activities that have significant positive impacts on SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG10 (Reducing Inequalities) at the same time highlighting their commitment to addressing climate change and working towards SDG13 (Climate Action).
Whole-of society Approach
Community partnerships is an integral part of their work. Julie Ryan is always looking for opportunities to engage with other groups and organizations. Some examples include a bike-share program for one of their buildings with London Cycle Link, tree planting events with ReForest London and spearheading the Richmond Underpass Community Arts Project.
To further their work, Indwell is working together with several other organizations in the housing and homeless sector to promote the SDGs and work towards their implementation. The Vision Soho Alliance is an inspiring collaboration that is getting attention from other cities in Canada and around the world. A shining example of the power of how SDG17 (Partnership for the Goals) can be accomplished and how local actors and networks are key to address our most pressing challenges.
Convened by London Community Foundation, the Alliance includes Indwell, Zerin Development Corporation, Homes Unlimited, Chelsea Green Home Society, London Affordable Housing Foundation, and the Residenza Affordable Housing. The individual affordable housing developers have proven track records and many years of producing successful, award-winning projects that have greatly added to the architectural quality of the streetscape of London. The combined portfolios of the members comprise 35 projects and over 2,200 apartments and townhomes. Each member organization brings their long history of addressing housing needs in the community and specific expertise to the overall development.Vision Soho Alliance
Into the Future
As Indwell moves forward to advance their mission, they envision using the SDGs as a framework to communicate their goals and attract more support for their work in the community. They plan to continue measuring their impact and implementing the lessons learned from the Academy and to provide SDG-related information to all staff members.
If you are interested to learn more about Indwell’s work, you can visit Indwell’s website at https://indwell.ca/