St. Peter’s Lutheran Church congregation recently voted to alter their land holding in support of redeveloping their property at 49 Queen St. N, Kitchener. The redeveloped downtown Kitchener site will include up to 40 single, affordable housing apartments on the second and third floors of their existing building. The church’s distinctive sanctuary with stained-glass windows and soaring ceiling will undergo renovations but remain in its historic location. This project will continue St. Peter’s legacy as a centre of spiritual and community well-being in the Waterloo Region.
“I commend St. Peter’s congregation for embarking on this courageous and faith-fueled partnership to bless and serve our neighbours! This is a timely and much needed expression of contemporary discipleship that will extend blessing upon blessing within our community,” says Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
The need for affordable housing became real for the downtown congregation when they discovered a family of three living in an air vent behind their building. “Three people experiencing homelessness were living directly behind our altar as we worshipped in comfort,” says Pastor Mark Ehlebracht.
Founded in 1863 to meet the spiritual needs of German Lutherans who migrated to Kitchener from Europe, St. Peter’s has a long history of collaboration with the community. After dialogue with a variety of community partners, the congregation decided to collaborate with Indwell on this supportive housing project.
Indwell is a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities for people seeking health, wellness and belonging. They serve people experiencing poverty due to a disability, often impacted by mental health, and sometimes complicated by addictions. Founded in 1974, Indwell has been constructing new affordable housing since 2006. They have buildings across Southwestern Ontario in London, Hamilton, Woodstock, Simcoe, and new projects in Kitchener and Mississauga. Indwell is currently repurposing the former St. Mark’s Lutheran church property beside Grand River Hospital to create 43 apartments.
“People speak very highly of Indwell as a provider of supportive housing. We hear that they engage meaningfully with their partners, the community, and the municipality as they plan their projects,” says Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, who is excited about the St. Peter’s project in the heart of Kitchener.
Work towards this new vision for St. Peter’s ministry will begin this spring, with design, costings, and community engagement. Once an implementation strategy is in place, construction could begin in 2022. Indwell will implement passive house standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and reduce utility costs—savings that are passed on to tenants. St. Peter’s and Indwell would operate their programs independently, but envision shared spaces including a community kitchen, programming and social facilities, and an enhanced outdoor courtyard at the heart of the project.
Indwell will manage the affordable housing units and provide mental health and practical supports to the tenants. “Loving our neighbours as ourselves is fundamentally at the heart of our faith, and of our organization’s culture,” says Jeff Neven, Executive Director at Indwell. “We are inspired by St. Peter’s overwhelming decision to reach out in love to their neighbours, to practically invest in sharing life with people right next door who may have been homeless. We’re excited to be taking these next steps towards realizing this vision together.”
“Almost 6,000 people are on the list for affordable housing in the region…Government can’t provide for this need on our own. We need to create significant partnerships with the private sector and non-profit organizations like Indwell and St. Peter’s Church to solve this problem,” says Regional Councillor Jim Erb.
“St. Peter’s has been blessed to be part of downtown Kitchener for more than 158 years. This redevelopment project is rooted in our commitment to continue giving back to the amazing Waterloo Region community,” says St. Peter’s Pastor Mark Ehlebracht. The project reinforces the church’s motto “there is a place for you here” as they continue widening their welcome to the community.
The writing below was found on the back wall of St. Peter’s.