As the Director of the HOMES Programs for Good Shepherd in Hamilton and the Board President for Bethlehem Housing and Support Services, John Lee is a passionate advocate about the issues of poverty and the affordable housing crisis the Niagara Region is facing.
John first heard of Bethlehem many years ago while he was a student at Niagara College. He was completing a placement at the St. Catharines Housing Help Centre where he began to understand the effects homelessness has on individuals and the community. John says, “I remember a young family visiting the Housing Help Centre and sharing how happy they were that an apartment became available for them at Bethlehem. It was probably the first time I saw the hope that having a home brings.”
Most of John’s career has taken place in Hamilton where he has been involved in social services and health care that offers affordable housing integrated with support and other services for individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness. He explains, “I’m very committed to the work in the Hamilton community, however I have missed contributing to my own community.”
It was then that John was reintroduced to Bethlehem and was amazed at the work and direction Bethlehem was taking in serving the Niagara Region. He was offered the opportunity to volunteer as a Board Member and in 2012 he became our Board President.
Over the last six year’s John has provided exceptional leadership and vision that has transformed our purpose into action. He claims that the affordable housing crisis has been prevalent in Niagara for far too long. He also believes that affordable housing and supports are key cornerstones to a healthy and vibrant Niagara.
At our community events, John is well known for engaging the audience with his passionate and inspirational speeches. The underlying message in his speeches is that as a community we can get ahead of this crisis so that we are no longer addressing long waiting lists, but instead we are actively addressing homelessness in our community. To do that our community needs to commit to the ongoing planning and development of affordable housing as part of our healthy economic plan to eliminate poverty. By building affordable housing Niagara will provide members of our community the true foundation of a home.
As our Board President, John believes it is extremely important we serve the people in our community that seek support from Bethlehem with the utmost dignity and respect, despite the stigma, oppression and systemic barriers that exist.
John says that serving on the board for Bethlehem has exposed him to many opportunities to learn and grow. He adds, “Being a volunteer at Bethlehem is empowering. It is a constant reminder that ending homelessness is not hopeless. Ending homelessness is a hope-filled, solvable issue for our community. Together we will create a community where everyone in Niagara has a home.”