Liberal Arts Learning For Service
Phil Teeuwsen | Redeemer Professor
The expectations of faculty are divided into a number of different categories. The primary expectation is that we teach. A closely related expectation is that we do research. Faculty are always learning more about their field of study, but also seek to significantly contribute to it through research, presentations at conferences, and scholarly publications in books and journals. An additional expectation of faculty is that we become involved in service, both here at Redeemer, but also in the community as well. As a professor in the Department of Education, my teaching and research revolves around teaching and learning, schools and schooling. I could (and do) spend hours and pages discussing this. In this article, I would like to shed some light on a particular area of service in the Hamilton community.
I sit on the Board of Directors of Indwell. Indwell is a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities for people seeking health, wellness and belonging. As you can tell from that description, Indwell is not solely concerned with housing. It is driven to provide and support communities where people can live well and in fact flourish. The need for such communities is great. According to Steven Rolfe, Director of Policy and Planning, Indwell’s Dr. John M. Perkins Centre is home to 46 people experiencing recovery from mental illness or homelessness. Most people who move into Hamilton’s Perkins Centre are finding a home, often for the first time in their adult lives; few people want to give up home once they find it. Perkins Centre currently has 100 people who have applied to live there. Most will not find a home there — some will wait up to 5 years to move in. There are over 500 people who have completed applications to live at one of Indwell’s current 7 locations. Wait times for social housing in Hamilton are up to 7 years.
Indwell has been quite ambitious in pursuing its mission. In the 2013 Strategic Plan, the Board decided to double its housing capacity by 2017; over 440 places for people to call home. These communities are all unique and reflect the nature of the neighbourhoods they are in and the needs of the tenants they serve. Indwell currently serves close to 320 individuals and families in a variety of settings, from group homes to independent apartments in Hamilton and Woodstock.
Harvey Woods Lofts in Woodstock is an example of the dedication and creativity required by Indwell to make affordable housing happen. Our staff team partnered with all levels of government and community to convert a former sock factory into 54 beautiful apartments for people to find a home in. Phase Two of this project is set to begin shortly. In Simcoe, the local community has welcomed Indwell to partner with them in the creation of 40 spaces. Indwell is truly a dynamic place to be involved in.
I have a background in education, not social services or housing. I am not a builder, nor do I have any expertise in interior design. What I do have is experience working with various boards and organizations and am familiar with policy development and oversight. Also important is my liberal arts background that I cultivated at Redeemer as a student in the early 1990s and also now as a faculty member. Places like Indwell do not work well without the coming together of multiple voices, perspectives and skills. This requires people who can understand and consider problems and opportunities from a variety of different angles.
Indwell is not just about housing; it would not be as successful if it was. It is about people. Most organizations are about people and relationships, ideas and dreams, needs and opportunities, problems and solutions. I have a degree in Political Science and History from Redeemer. I teach people how to teach, and for now, I contribute to the direction of Indwell, seeking to provide hope and homes for the people of Hamilton, Woodstock and beyond. I was prepared for such service through my Redeemer education.
I began this article discussing service as an expectation of faculty. The reality of the Christian life is that it is the expectation of all of us. When I was a student at Redeemer, the overall message seemed to be contained in the phrase “Learning is for serving.” This was declared in the context of a belief that was summed up clearly and concisely by our commencement speaker, who said, “Nothing in this world matters except Jesus Christ. But because of Jesus Christ, everything matters.” Since everything matters, our hope at Redeemer is that our students will learn to be ready for anything.