Cycle of Hope rolled into Southampton in support of Habitat for Humanity

On Thursday, July 20th, the Pedal for Progress, Cycle of Hope cyclists rode into Southampton as part of the ‘Housing for All’ project in support of Habitat for Humanity.

                              Cycle of Hope cyclists begin to arrive in Southampton for an overnight stop

While many community activities were planned, the weatherman decided otherwise as a deluge of rain took over the festivities.

               Photo submitted – Huddling out of the rain at the Southampton Coliseum

Fortunately, however, everyone was able to move inside to the Coliseum and continue on with several guest speakers taking to the podium.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau welcomed the cyclists saying that they are doing “… awesome work in raising more than $100,000 to provide a home for a family.  I know you are in our community for only a short time but I want to issue an invitation to come back and visit.  In Saugeen Shores we are absolutely committed to fighting the housing crisis in our community.  We have great partners like Habitat for Humanity that we have had projects with in the past and are eager to have projects with again in the future.”

“We are doing important work in our community to fill that missing gap of housing so that everybody who wants to can have a place to live,” added the Mayor.  “We are having great success and, this year, for the first time we are building more high-density rental units than single-family homes.  We are turning the corner in making sure we are building the housing we need and we are backing that up with rent subsidies.  We are the only lower-tier municipality, that I am aware of, that is subsidizing rents for lower income or minimum wage earners to get them into affordable housing.”

Rev. Heather Davies of Southampton United Church said that she was the first contact person when the group reached out to visit Saugeen Shores.  “It’s wonderful to host you and what we are doing at Southampton United Church is to organize the ‘United Housing for All’ through partnering with Port Elgin United Church and members of the community to talk about housing issues we have here.  We know there are people who want to live in this area and cannot afford to.”

Greg Fryer, Executive Director Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce, said that the partnership with Saugeen First Nation has resulted not only in housing but also in training in trades and employment for youth.  “There are five homes under construction at Saugeen First Nation with two more planned for Nawash Unceded First Nation (Cape Croker). We also have plans to build homes here in Saugeen Shores to meet the need for affordable housing.  We look forward to working with the Mayor and Council in moving forward on how to really provide affordable housing for families in need.  We are all aware there is a housing crisis everywhere and here as well.  We are working to provide that housing and training in skilled development for trades and to see housing where families can live and thrive and remove the stress of high rents.”

“The Habitat housing model is designed to grow exponentially,” said long-time Habitat for Humanity volunteer and member of the Housing for All committee, Mark Havitz. “Every dollar we raise is matched over time by homeowner families who never pay more than 25 per cent of their income for housing on an interest-free mortgage, and the numbers keep growing.   We can’t build enough homes by ourselves.  it has to be a collaboration with businesses, government and agencies.  In the early nineties, Habitat built 10,000 homes worldwide in a year.  In 2022 alone, that number reached 7.2 million or 19,726 per day or 822 houses every hour.”

He went on to say that the partnership with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) has been one of the “… most fantastic build sites I have very been on.  In Nawash (Cape Croker) more than 50 per cent of the children now live in Habitat homes.”

A young mother, Sheena Nanninga, was guest speaker saying that she has lived at, and below, the poverty line and has also lived comfortably.  “I have experienced life in apartment buildings, a house, above a business, in a duplex and owned a house with my now ex-husband.  I am now considered homeless with shelter.   When my oldest daughter was in college, I became homeless and she couldn’t move back as there was no home to go to. It is now just me and my two other girls and this was the start of homelessness for us.  I felt like I was watching my life and my family fall apart.  It is mentally and physically exhausting for me and my kids. We all make choices but cannot predict circumstance in life  …  there are so many moving parts for everyone.”

For larger view, Click on Image (photos submitted)

The cyclists travel with their cots and blow-up mattresses and, in Southampton, their accommodation was at the Coliseum.  “This is absolute luxury compared to some of the places we have stayed in,” said Brett Bourne with the group.  “It’s dry and warm with showers – it’s great!”

                                                    Coliseum became a sleepover site for the cyclists

The group was treated to a hot meal prepared by volunteers and a breakfast the following morning before setting out for their next stop in Exeter, 176km away.

When the ride is complete, the group will have travelled from Winnipeg to Niagara Falls, a distance of 2,239km.  As a prerequisite, each rider had to raise $3,500 and pay a registration fee of $1,000.  The next ride, Spirit of Hope, takes place in August.