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This empty Kitchener, Ont. church will soon be affordable housing


It’s a unique project in an unlikely space – an empty church in Kitchener is being transformed into affordable housing.

More than 40 units are starting to take shape at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

When you step inside the church, you’ll see stained glass remains and signs of a new beginning.

Gone are the pews, where people piled in to the centre of the church for decades.

Off to the side, stacks of doors are being re-purposed as the doorways into tenants' apartments.

“Particularly in the City of Kitchener, they've estimated they need approximately 450 transitional and supportive housing units. And so we know the need is here,” said Mark Willcock, the community engagement coordinator at Indwell.

The church was a temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness, after the congregation joined Trilliam Lutheran Church in 2018.

Then in 2021, Indwell began construction.

This fall, the mixture of studio, one bedroom and barrier-free units will be ready.

Most tenants come from homelessness or precarious housing.

Indwell is working with the Region of Waterloo to determine who will get to live there based on a waitlist and people's needs.

“So, our rent here at St. Mark's place will be approximately $550 a month,” Willcock said.

That amount is roughly the shelter allowance for someone on disability or social assistance.

Up to 15 staff members will provide tenants with on-site health supports, and there will also be meals provided.

“We'll ensure that they at least have one good meal a day as they learn life skills. Like budgeting like learning how to cook,” Willcock said.

The $16.5 million project is not the only one Indwell has on the go in Waterloo region.Similar efforts are underway at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener And at the Grand River Hotel in Preston.

“It is rewarding, it is making a big difference. It may not seem like a lot in just when you take it just to look at one project,” said Willcock.

A project that's doubling down on the reason many people go to a church in the first place – comfort. Top Stories

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