Home for Christmas

Guillermo is getting pretty excited for Christmas. But the 9-year-old boy who loves Lego and Star Wars has already received the best present he could ask for — a home.

Guillermo and his parents, Nelly and Armando, moved out of a shelter and into their own two-bedroom apartment at the beginning of November. “It’s great, it’s a big difference,” says Armando from the family’s new living room at an affordable housing property owned by Bishop O’Byrne Housing.

They lived at Inn from the Cold for eight months, after Armando lost his job. His wife has a medical condition and is unable to work, leaving the family destitute. “We are very grateful to Inn from the Cold,” he says. “But a shelter is not the right place for our son, or any kid.”

As one of RESOLVE’s nine Partners, Bishop O’Byrne staff agree. They approached Inn from the Cold to offer affordable housing for vulnerable and homeless families. Having traditionally housed older adults only, Bishop O’Byrne has recently opened its doors to small families as well. “We have six two-bedroom suites,” says Myrt Butler, Chief Executive Officer of Bishop O’Byrne. “And we need to utilize them to house the people who need it the most.”

Armando is working again, “but my wages aren’t that good.” By going to the food bank and stretching “everything,” the family can just manage the rent. Through RESOLVE, Bishop O’Byrne will be able to lower the mortgage on this building, making it possible to offer more affordable rents to tenants.

As the first family to move into a Bishop O’Byrne building, the family is thrilled with their new home, and their new neighbours. “They’re very friendly, especially with my son,” says Armando. “He’s the king right now. They bring him cookies and everything.”

The other 90 or so residents in the building, mainly seniors, enjoy having children around, says Inna Lukianchuk, whose own grandchildren live far away. “They’re a lovely family. The boy is smart and nice and is he ever polite.”

Having young families in their midst has added vibrancy to the community as well as a little extra holiday spirit to the festive tree in the main floor common area. “On Christmas morning we’re going to knock on their door and say Santa left you something under the tree, then we’re all going to watch him open it,” says Lukianchuk of a plan she and another resident are cooking up for Guillermo.

“There’s nothing nicer than watching a kid open a present and say ‘Wow!’ To me, that will make Christmas.”