January 12, 2023

Meet the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program Advisors

By Evergreen

The Advisory Committee supports partnership building, program design and resources as applicants advance their housing supply solutions.

Evergreen is pleased to introduce the national Housing Supply Challenge Support Program Advisory Committee. 

Launched in October 2020, the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program, led by Evergreen, supports applicants of the Housing Supply Challenge by providing guidance, mentorship and the resources needed to develop and improve their innovative housing supply solutions. 

This current Advisory Committee is made up of a diverse group of members with extensive experience on key issues facing our communities, such as tackling homelessness, accessing and maintaining rental and ownership housing, breaking down barriers to social inclusion, delivering housing solutions to Indigenous communities and responding to the unique needs of big cities and smaller rural and remote communities. 

The Advisory Committee provides high-level advice to guide the development of program activities, support partnership-building and outreach, provide input into program design and resources and act as ambassadors for the Support Program. Representing a broad spectrum of housing key players from across Canada, the Advisors bring a variety of important networks and perspectives to the table. Their valuable contributions are key ingredients in the success of the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program and its applicants. 

Recruitment and support of the Advisory Committee has been possible with the assistance of Dina Graser, Senior Project advisor to Evergreen, and Sean Gadon, Special Housing Advisor to Evergreen.

Sean Gadon 
Special Housing Advisor to Evergreen 

For more than four decades, Sean has been dedicated to working with Canadians to deliver affordable housing solutions for low-income families and individuals. His track record includes successfully working as a tenant organizer, building non-profit and co-operative housing for labour unions and community organizations, providing strategic advice on housing and homelessness issues to elected officials and working in an executive capacity within the voluntary sector. As the former national president of Raising the Roof, he led a national effort in building awareness and finding solutions to homelessness in Canada. For more than ten years Sean led the City of Toronto’s affordable housing efforts, most recently as the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat.  

Presently Sean provides “action advice” on housing, community and urban affairs to the not-for-profit sector, the private sector and governments. He is a part-time Special Housing Advisor to Evergreen on the delivery of the Housing Supply Challenge Support Program. He recently contributed to the work of the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission. Sean is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Urban Studies Program. Currently he splits his time living in downtown Toronto, Ontario, and the beautiful town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. 

Dina Graser 
Senior Project Advisor to Evergreen 

Dina is a consultant specializing in urban projects that build and engage communities, from housing and infrastructure to transportation, the arts and public engagement. Dina takes a strategic, creative and pragmatic approach to connecting people and communities to build consensus and make progress on complex problems.  

Dina has been a Senior Advisor to Evergreen’s Housing Supply Challenge Support Program since its inception. Previously, she served as Project Director of the National Housing Collaborative, a Senior Advisor at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the Munk School of Global Affairs (University of Toronto) and Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations at Metrolinx.  Before joining Metrolinx, Dina was a communications lawyer, a planning activist, and a successful producer of live shows, festivals and events.

Dwight Beardy
Entrepreneur/Chasing the Dream , President, Mighty River Enterprise , Director, Mino-Keesikow Ventures Inc. 

Dwight has been working on remediation, prevention, risk-based and condition-based maintenance for over 10 years. He is president and co-founder of Mighty River Enterprise (MRE), a social enterprise dedicated to supporting healthy living and community involvement through recreation and supporting innovative housing solutions through community and resource development. In his role as a Tribal Housing Advisor, he honed his process development and quality control skills and acted as a liaison between the Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) at a community level and Indigenous Services of Canada (ISC) Manitoba region. As a highly experienced operations and maintenance supervisor, he achieved the responsibility values award out of 500,000 employees in 2014 with ESS Compass Group of Canada.  

“Everyone deserves a healthy home, for better days for a better tomorrow.”  

“Rivers flow forward and it’s rough, but anything is possible with great values.” 

Headshot of Brittney Bessette.Brittney Bessette
Community Advocate

I have lived in the North my whole life. I come from a very big family, with 20 people in total, and grew up playing hockey. I have a big voice when it comes to community problems, and a widespread love for helping out others in my community.

Headshot of Stephen Crocker.Stephen Crocker
Facilitator, Indigenous Works

Throughout Stephen’s career he has worked with Indigenous people from many different perspectives. He taught school in isolated First Nation communities in northern Ontario and Manitoba and managed a nonprofit employment agency that provided temporary casual employment opportunities to Indigenous people living in the inner city of Edmonton. 

Stephen volunteered as a Director with Indigenous Works for many years and chaired the finance committee. Since stepping down as a Director, Stephen has completed a number of contract assignments with Indigenous Works including facilitation of Indigenous relations workshops to industry. Recently, Stephen oversaw a major Indigenous Works project that was assisting disengaged industry sectors to connect with Indigenous organizations in four provinces. He is now semi-retired and works independently assisting corporations and Indigenous groups with engagement and relationship-building initiatives. 

Jacob Gorenkoff 
Acting Director, Policy & Government Relations, Canadian Housing and Renewal Association 

Jacob brings a penchant for creative energy, big ideas and a genuine love of helping others to his role as Acting Director, Policy & Government Relations for the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. 

Building on his formal education in political management, he has built a career out of working with businesses and other organizations committed to building stronger, more inclusive communities. As an advocate and not-for-profit executive, Jacob has demonstrated significant success developing and implementing advocacy strategies, running grassroots campaigns, forming and communicating policy recommendations and creating compelling content and programs. 

When he isn’t pursuing the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s advocacy goals, Jacob seeks opportunities to support housing innovation, construction and development to unlock a future where everyone in Canada has a home they can afford and that suits their needs. 

 Jeff Neven 
Chief Executive Officer, Indwell Community Homes 

Jeff serves as the CEO of Indwell, one of Ontario’s fastest growing supportive housing charities that creates affordable housing communities for people seeking health, wellness and belonging. Over the past 21 years, Jeff and the Indwell team have grown from supporting just seven tenants to providing homes and supports for over 1,000 people with 760 units under construction/pre-development. Jeff is an established community leader, actively involved in youth neighbourhood engagement, active transportation, homelessness prevention and his local church. He lives with his wife Maria and four children in central Hamilton. He holds a Master of Social Work in Community, Policy, Planning and Organizations from Wilfrid Laurier University and received the “40 Under 40” Next Generation of Hamilton Leaders Award in 2017. 

Headshot of Sheldon Pollett.Sheldon Pollett
Executive Director, Choices for Youth

Sheldon has been the Executive Director of Choices for Youth since 2001. During his tenure, the organization has become a national leader and partner in identifying best practices in the design and delivery of services to youth, including social enterprise. Sheldon is the former co-chair of the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness and is a past (founding) Board member of A Way Home Canada – A National Coalition to End Youth Homelessness. He is also a member of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. 

Sheldon is the current Chair of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Mental Health and Addictions, a past Vice-Chair of End Homelessness St. John’s and a past member of the Centre for Social Enterprise Advisory Committee at Memorial University. 

Mylene Riva
Professor, McGill University

Mylene is Assistant professor at McGill University, jointly appointed to the Institute for Health and Social Policy and Department of Geography. She holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Housing, Community and Health. She leads an applied research program that spans health geography and population health to understand housing and community conditions as structural determinants of health and as settings for intervention to promote health and wellbeing for Inuit, First Nations, urban and rural dwellers. She is committed to working with communities, organizations and governments to provide rigorous scientific evidence that can be used to inform practice and policy. 

Rodney Small
Executive Director, One North End (ONE) 

Rodney is a highly motivated leader with a passion for entrepreneurship, community economics and people development. He believes innovation and entrepreneurship are key to creating economic prosperity and sustainability. As Executive Director and Job Success Coordinator at ONE, he leads programs that are co-designed with youth to help them achieve their career goals. Rodney holds a Bachelor of Management (with Integrity) from Dalhousie University and is the subject of RDS vs. A Story of Race and Justice, a short film on his journey to shake the stereotypes that followed him as a Black teenager and his successful landmark court case. 

Keisha St. LouisMcBurnie
Urban Planner and Researcher 

Keisha is an urban planner and researcher based in Toronto dedicated to advancing alternative, value-driven models for affordable housing, community economic development and community wealth building. 

Born and raised in co-operative housing, she holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Urban Studies and a Master of Science in Planning, both from the University of Toronto. In 2019 and 2020, respectively, Keisha was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS-M) by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) by the university to undertake research that explores how Canada’s co-operative housing sector has grown in the age of the National Housing Strategy. 

She currently sits on the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI)’s Anti-Black Racism in Planning Task Force and is also the recipient of a Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) President’s Award for being a graduate student who has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to the future of the planning profession. 

Giacomo Valzania 
Project Manager, Groupe CDH 

Ph.D. Candidate, McGill University Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture 

Giacomo works as a project manager at Groupe CDH, a non-profit housing developer that has contributed to the creation of over 8,000 social and community housing units in Montreal since 1976. His responsibilities include assessing financial feasibility, searching for funding opportunities, negotiating real estate transactions, interpreting planning and urban design frameworks, collaborating with several stakeholders and coordinating professionals at the development stage. Giacomo’s educational background is in architecture (MArch from the University of Bologna) and urban design (post-professional MArch from McGill University). He is currently completing a Ph.D. in architecture at McGill University, where he is also course lecturer in a planning and design studio joining master-level students from the schools of Architecture and Urban Planning. 

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