Late last year the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) honoured Lorne Epp, long-time executive director of More Than a Roof Housing Society (MTR), with the 2018 Denise LeBlond Lifetime Achievement Award. The annual award “recognizes an individual whose dedication and vision have furthered the cause of affordable housing in BC.”
Speaking on behalf of the BCNPHA, founding member Alice Sundberg made a video statement about Epp:
Just the name of the society, More Than a Roof, means exactly what Lorne’s all about, [which] is we’re not just putting a roof over somebody’s head, we’re providing them with the love and kindness and belonging that’s actually going to change their lives and make a difference.
Epp describes how MTR got started under the Mennonite Central Committee BC (MCC BC):
More Than A Roof (formerly MCC BC Social Housing Society) began as a Christian faith response to the housing crisis of the early 1980s. Several builder/developers from the Mennonite faith community and architect Sig Toews took it on as a ‘passion project.’
They did a three-lot land assembly in East Vancouver and built a 26 unit affordable family housing project [in 1986]. This was our first project, Charleswood Court. CMHC financed the construction and the land was sold to the City of Vancouver and dedicated to affordable housing purposes in perpetuity.
Historically, MCC has been an incubator of faith-based, mission-minded social enterprise. MTR Housing came out of that. Other examples are Communitas Supportive Care Society, Fraser Valley Gleaners, the MCC Thrift Store network, Momentum.org in Alberta and Ten Thousand Villages. All have MCC roots.
A recent More Than a Roof news release noted that Epp was stepping down as leader of the organization at the end of the year. It said:
Lorne is the founding executive director of MTR and has brought his capable leadership to the organization since 1993. He worked faithfully to build and grow MTR as a pioneer in the supportive and affordable housing sector in BC.
His accomplishments span 25 years and include growing MTR into a multi-service non-profit housing provider that currently serves over 1,700 tenants in 12 communities representing 1,250 units of low to moderate income housing for singles, seniors and families with a strong mental health and addiction recovery support arm.
The local MTR communities are:
* Charleswood Court (1986),1515 Charles Street, Vancouver
* Dockside Village (1992), 12500 Trites Road, Richmond
* Lakepark Village (1996), 8580 Cumberland Place, Burnaby
* S.I.L. Program (1996), North Vancouver
* Candela Place (2002), 1267 Granville Street, Vancouver
* Dewdney Villas (2006), 21755 Dewdney Trunk Road, Maple Ridge
* Kindred Place (2009), 1321 Richards Street, Vancouver
* Karis Place (2011), 1338 Seymour Street, Vancouver
* City Heights (2014), 155 E. 37th Avenue, Vancouver
* Sunset Towers (2017), 1655 Barclay Street / 1650 Haro Street, Vancouver
For an article on Church for Vancouver about the City Heights development at Little Mountain go here. More Than a Roof has also developed communities in Victoria and Prince George.
Sundberg said this about Epp’s broader role in the province:
I worked with Lorne a lot in my role as executive director of BC Non-Profit Housing Association, and he was the president of the board, so I got to see him at that more political level. And that’s where I really saw that dedication in Lorne.
Lorne made a big difference, in his quiet way, in changing the attitudes of our government partners. [He] has seen a vision for how we can make sure that everyone’s housed, and knows that we need the next generation – and so, encouraging them, drawing them in, mentoring them, coaching them, making sure that we have leaders in the non-profit housing sector going forward.
He very much deserves the award because he has been incredibly dedicated to the cause of affordable housing and making a difference in the non-profit housing sector.
The MTR news release made a similar point:
Lorne has worked tirelessly to build collaborative relationships with other housing providers, government agencies, support services and private sector supporters including church and parachurch organizations. He also fostered and nurtured healthy relationships with funding partners, most notably BC Housing, CMHC, Vancouver Coastal Health and various cities throughout BC.
Following an extensive process, the MTR board announced the appointment of Lee-Anne Michayluk to the new position of chief executive officer (CEO) for More Than A Roof. They stated:
As a valued leader for more than 20 years, and as someone from within the organization who is eminently qualified to serve MTR as it continues on the path that has been set through Lorne’s capable leadership, Lee-Anne has grown with the organization, first as a resident, then as resident manager, through to becoming the associate executive director under Lorne’s mentorship, and continues as an integral part of the leadership and culture at MTR.
Lorne Epp’s future
As for Lorne Epp, he clearly relished his role as leader of More Than a Roof:
As a Christian faith-based housing and health provider, we occupy a unique space in our publicly funded, community social services sector. It demands sustained excellence as we live out Micah 6:8 in a highly visible way. Simple, but never easy.
It’s been a profound honour for me serve in this leadership role. I’m deeply grateful to my board, staff and loyal investor/partners that have been a part of this journey.
Saying he’s “not wired for a full-on retirement,” he adds:
It’s more likely my future work will focus on coaching and consulting with mission-driven teams and organizations. I particularly love working with younger leaders who have a heart to make a difference. Those are the kinds of opportunities I’m excited about.