Debra Dynes Family House hits 20-year milestone

As it nears its 20th anniversary, Debra Dynes Family House is being praised by users for helping low-income residents from all walks of life find their way in south Ottawa.

South Ottawa home has housed programs for low-income residents since 1995

On Debra Avenue in Hog's Back, there's one very special house that hosts one-of-a-kind programs but looks like all the rest.

Luwam Kidane credits Debra Dynes Family House for helping her get into doing social work. (CBC)

"It's the house that keeps all the houses together," said Luwam Kidane.

Kidane is talking about the Debra Dynes Family House, founded in 1995 to improve the quality of life for multicultural families living in community housing nearby.

Over the years, the programming offered at the south Ottawa house has evolved — an emergency food bank, English as a second language classes, youth programs and summer camps.

An event honouring some of the house's successes was held Wednesday night. The gathering was also used as a fundraiser for the non-profit organization.

'It's like a second home'

Kidane is originally from Eritrea and moved to the neighbourhood with her family when she was two. She said the programs she participated in at "the house" inspired her to pursue a career in social work.

She now works at the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre.

"No one chooses to live in subsidized areas," she said.

"It's not a choice that we have but it's something I've come to embrace and use that as my advantage to motivate me to do more and push myself to as far as I can and get myself where I want to be in life."

Mariam Yary said she got her first job through Debra Dynes Family House and is now in her fourth year of an engineering degree. (CBC)

Mariam Yary moved to the neighbourhood about 15 years ago from Afghanistan. At the time, she said she spoke no English.

She said the house is a one-stop shop.

"It's like a second home, especially for me and my family. Every time we needed help we always went there," she said.

Yary said she got help with homework and even got her first job there helping out with summer programs. She is now in university in her fourth year of civil engineering.

Both women credit Barbara Carroll, the house's executive director for its success. Carroll helped open the house 20 years ago.

"The community has become her second family and she's become our family," Kidane said.