The importance of a roof over one’s head was brought home during the official opening of the Richcraft Hope Residence as soon as it started to rain during the outdoor event.
Fortunately, the wetness didn’t last long, nor did it dampen the spirits of all those who gathered Wednesday morning outside Shepherds of Good Hope’s new 42-unit supportive housing building at 765 Montreal Rd.
“We’re very happy to finally welcome everyone here,” the non-profit organization’s president and CEO, Deirdre Freiheit, said proudly while speaking to various champions of the underdog and, most importantly, the Singhal family, whose financial contribution was key to making the supportive housing program a reality.
The Singhals, who own Richcraft Group of Companies, are longtime philanthropists in Ottawa. Founder Kris Singhal and his wife, Manju, attended with their two daughters, their son-in-laws and their grandchildren, along with their supportive network of friends.
“Their compassion toward individuals who are experiencing homelessness and those across our community who are precariously housed led them to provide the largest single gift in the history of Shepherds of Good Hope,” said Freiheit while expressing her heartfelt gratitude to the Singhals. “And Manju has told me many times that she hopes, and her family hopes, that they will inspire others to give as well.”
Speaking on behalf of the family was daughter Monica Singhal, who described Shepherds of Good Hope as an organization that’s been dear to her family’s heart since she and her sister Angela Singhal were children.
“Our parents instilled in us the importance of giving back to those less fortunate, and that didn’t always mean with a monetary donation,” said Monica. “Sometimes it meant getting up early on weekends, driving to (Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen on) Murray Street, cutting up vegetables and serving lunch to our homeless. It meant meeting and connecting with them and hearing their stories.”
She praised the organization for providing care based on empathy and dignity, not judgment.
“The purpose of the Richcraft Hope Residence is in its name: to give hope,” said Monica. “And our family is honoured to have been part of the process, from the early stages, through to the build, to opening day.”
The crowd heard from Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mona Fortier and from Mayor Jim Watson, who spoke of how proud Ottawa was of the Singhal family.
“Their generosity knows no bounds,” said Watson.
He was among the guests who toured the new facility. In the process, one of the residents, Norman, offered him a coat.
“He didn’t think I was too bright coming out without a jacket,” the mayor quipped as some light rain was heard hitting the event tent.
The mayor acknowledged the presence of councillors Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier) Rawlson King (Rideau-Rockcliffe), Catherine McKenney (Somerset) and Tim Tierney (Beacon Hill-Cyrville), describing them as “four strong voices for the homeless and the voiceless in our community.”
“The creation of the Richcraft Hope Residence will have a positive impact on my ward and this city due to the compassion and care that it will bring to residents through supportive housing,” King said during his brief remarks, while noting that the mayor and council supported the creation of the residence through $7 million in waive fees and grants. The project received other support, including an anonymous donation of $250,000.
Residents started moving into Richcraft Hope Residence this past spring.
Providing people with supportive housing helps to reduce and prevent chronic homelessness, unnecessary hospital admissions and involvement with the criminal justice system, said King. The facility, he added, aids in stabilizing people in crisis through innovative harm-reduction services, such as its managed alcohol program, and with sophisticated supports to help individuals with complex mental health challenges, substance use disorders and trauma.
“I’m also pleased and proud to see this residence come to fruition just 27 months after we broke ground, shortly after my (by)election,” said King. “Watching this site take shape over that time reassures us that better is possible as we begin to emerge from this global pandemic that has made life hard for so many.”
Residents of Richcraft Hope Residence have access to ongoing care and medical support from Ottawa Inner City Health. Wendy Muckle, executive director of OICH, and its medical director, Dr. Jeff Turnbull, told everyone what an exciting day it was for them.
“Today we’re here at the start of 42 more lives to be transformed and many, many more to go,” said Muckle. “So, let’s keep going as a community.”
Shepherds of Good Hope operates four other supportive housing residences throughout Ottawa. New buildings are currently in development at 216 Murray St. and 1095 Merivale Rd., and an expansion of eight units is under way at Hope Living in Kanata.