The keys to a new affordable home in Midland are now in the hands of a family that's endured many hardships.
Midland’s newest homeowners are Shannon Sutton and her son Aiden, along with her spouse John Steel. Although they began the moving-in process three weeks ago, it was during a Habitat for Humanity event where they were handed ceremonial key-chains.
It was an emotional day, with Sutton sharing that her tears were from allergies before ultimately admitting to the crowd of volunteers and officials that she was crying with happiness.
The family had endured many hardships prior to relocating. Shannon suffered and has since fought back from a disabling traumatic brain injury, Aiden is disabled with hip screws impacting his social and extracurricular life, and John has been 20 months on the list waiting for a liver transplant.
“Having a new house doesn’t take away the trauma we’ve been through or the things we’ve been facing, but what it does do is give us a sense of security, of safety,” said Sutton. “Having an affordable home to come to makes those additional stressers that much easier to deal with.”
The master of ceremonies for the event was local orator Fred Hacker who held a connection with Sutton as her former basketball coach.
Hacker stated that Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North had served seven families prior to the new build; the two-bedroom one-bathroom duplex would raise that to nine families. Within North Simcoe, one family was served in Midland in 2004, and another in Port McNicoll in 2016.
“Over half of rental households in Ontario spend more than 30 per cent of their income on accommodation,” explained Hacker. “For many, that number exceeds 50 per cent.”
Following the ceremony, Sutton shared: “Ours was in the 80 per cent of my income that was going to housing for our family.”
Hacker noted that over 4,400 families were on the list for affordable housing in Simcoe County, with Mayor Stewart Strathearn adding that it was currently an eight-year wait.
The family had been on the list as of 2018. Through an application in April of 2021, the family learned of the Habitat's approval in August of that year. Numerous challenges were met to plan, develop, and build the lot into the livable structure.
To conclude, Hacker noted that the day was celebrating the occupation by this family, adding: “Habitat is still looking for a family to the home next door – your new neighbours – and there’s still time to donate if you are inclined to do so, and help Habitat cross the finish line by year-end.”
A presentation was made whereupon the family received ceremonial key-chains to accompany their keys. When coming up with the speech for the attendees, Sutton admitted difficulty in naming those who helped.
“How do you thank every person that donated $2 for a brick, donated things to the ReStore, or purchased at the ReStore? It’s not just about the people here today, but the whole community who has come together to give us this opportunity,” said Sutton.
Steel also had kind words for a community who extended their generosity.
“We all have some kind of history of illness, mine’s particularly bad. If I don’t get the transplant that I need it will lead to a rather final end," he said. “For me, securing this means that if something doesn’t go according to plan – something untoward happens – I know that my partner and my stepson are going to have security, a roof over their head and for that I will be forever grateful."
He added that patience in the process was an important part for those who would also receive “this wonderful gift.”
New builds are anticipated for Bala and Gravenhurst for 2023.
The Midland location for Habitat's ReStore is 720 Balm Beach Rd. E. It's open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca