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Not far from the Rivière des Mille-Îles, north of Laval, imagine a small office with three employees, fifteen social housing units and dozens of community activities. Add a good dose of resourcefulness, a dash of common sense, a lot of energy, and all the mutual aid and humanity required and you’ll get an amazing creation whose slight size belies the scale of its achievements.

Location Laval, 401,000 inhabitants
Founded 1992
Number of units 15 apartments
Clientele Low-income single-parent families
Employees 3, full time; 2, part time
Financial partners SHQ, Ministère de la famille, CISSS de Laval, City of Laval, Avenir d'enfants, Québec en forme, VizAxion, Bingo Masson, Programme Emploi-Été Canada
Federation FOH3L

portraits_auteuil4_rondesA committed community, social solidarity

Since 1992, the Relais Familial d’Auteuil has provided 15 apartments for low-income single-parent families. Funded by the Ministry for the Family and the Société d’habitation du Québec, among others, its primary mission is to provide housing and living environment for family members. The organization also receives aid from the Community Organization Support Program. A coordinator, a family worker and a youth worker welcome clients and organize activities from the Relais office.

portraits_auteuil2_rondes“When we receive a request, we know there will be at least a one-year wait because there is little turnover in our homes,”said coordinator Delphine Hervé. “But we redirect the family, we support them in their efforts and, of course, they’re invited to our activities, which are open to everyone in the neighbourhood.”

Activities include a day camp, prenatal yoga, garage sale, community kitchen and homework assistance. The games room, which serves as the “everything room” is always full. Conferences with outside counsellors are also offered for parents on various topics. And recently, the food bank for tenants has also started helping neighbourhood families referred by the CLSC.

In fact, the “Relais” in well known in the neighbourhood and people love to come back.

“Sometimes we receive some nice surprises. One day, a young man who grew up here came by to show us his newborn child. And although our children’s activities are reserved for people under 13 years, 13-year-olds come back… as volunteers!”
– Delphine Hervé, coordinator

Recently, the organization’s motto changed from “Serving families” to “Family at the heart of the action.”

“Our mission is to contribute to the quality of life for families, but also to promote citizen involvement, mutual aid and social diversity,” the coordinator said. “If we look to the outside, to the neighbourhood community, our participants and guests will also look to that.”

“Auteuil is a suburban district that welcomes more and more immigrant families. So the objective of social diversity makes sense”

Since 1992, provide support and break isolation

From the inception of the project in 1987, divorced and separated women decide to come together, organize community activities
and help each other in their legal proceedings. In 1990, the group that would become the FAHMO mutual aid movement submitted a project proposal to the SHQ, calling for the construction of 15 low-rent housing units and a community space. In October 1992, the first tenants arrived.

portraits_auteuil3_rondes“It saved my life”

Martine arrived in 2006 at what she affectionately calls “le Relais.” At the end of her rope and coming out of a severe depression after a painful separation and the loss of her network of friends, the bright new apartment and the support she receives was like a second wind.

“It saved my life,” she repeats to anyone who wants to listen. “When I separated, the housing I was living in wasn’t suitable. My social worker referred me here. When I arrived, I was so happy I participated in all the activities. There
was the thrift store, the food bank, beautiful inexpensive day trips … And when things go wrong, you can visit the community room. Today, we even have a collective garden in the back.”

portraits_auteuil1_rondesHer youngest last son, who has dysphasia, also benefited from the active living environment. “It helped him to get out in the world and out of his bubble!”

After 10 years in the neighbourhood, Martine can’t imagine herself anywhere else. “I haven’t had a car since my
separation. Here, everything is done on foot: groceries, swimming pool, community centre, everything is close!”

“I’d like if there was more. I’d like it if other families in need could live in places like this”
– Martine, tenant

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