See the new face of the 127 Society for Housing by visiting its recently launched website at www.127society.ca . The website features compelling portraits of the Society’s tenants taken by Vancouver photographer Ryan Mah who captured tenants’ individuality as they posed in their apartments, on their balconies, at community meals, and minding the low-cost food store. In partnership with BC Housing, CMHC, and the City of Vancouver, the 127 Society operates three apartment buildings that offer 259 low-income seniors safe, affordable homes in the Downtown South area of Vancouver – Jubilee House, Brookland Court and The Wellspring. A new Jubilee House to replace the existing aging structure is under construction and scheduled to open this summer.
Some of the tenant’s portraits show faces lined by years of hard work. Brief stories from tenants surround the photographs. Val, a tenant at Jubilee House for 30 years, recalled, “I have lived and worked all over Canada and the Yukon. I first started working harvesting peat on Lulu Island, then on to the CP and CN railways lifting steel, fighting forest fires in BC, Yukon and Alberta, then sawmills, ship’s hand in the boiler room, and construction – too many jobs to remember.”
And Mona, a tenant at The Wellspring since 2004, reminisced, “When I arrived in Vancouver, I worked as a waitress, elevator operator, chambermaid, helped with laundry, and my favourite job was usherette in a theatre on Granville. I don’t know what my husband did – he packed up his clothes and left me.”
The Society was established in 1981 by a group of Diocese of New Westminster Anglicans led by the late Hilda Gregory. You can check out the website’s “History” section for the misleadingly innocuous-looking church flyer that ignited the creation of the 127 Society for Housing 35 years ago. The Diocese helped the Society with start-up funding and also from time-to-time with funding through programs such as Stewards in Action, Going the Extra Mile (GEM) and care+share. As a non-profit society, the 127 Society is governed by a board of directors, the members of which at present are also parishioners at Christ Church Cathedral. The Cathedral parish also provides much appreciated annual financial support for the Society.
The 127 Society takes its name from Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders will have toiled in vain.” The Board understands this to mean that it provides homes for low-income people as part of living out the calling that we share in our work for social justice. The Society does not make religious beliefs a condition for helping its tenants. Neither tenants nor staff are required to believe in or practice any religion.
Funds are provided by CMHC, BC Housing and the City of Vancouver to build and maintain the apartment buildings. However, the Society needs to fundraise for the Community Worker program, which is key to developing the sense of community that characterizes the 127 Society’s approach.
The website enables visitors to make on-line donations to support the 127 Society’s work, and also links to the websites of organizations that support the 127 Society, including Christ Church Cathedral. The Society appreciates the support provided to us over many years by individual faithful donors from this diocese and beyond.
Two of Ryan Mah’s photographs of 127 residents