It’s hard to pinpoint just one person that Dr. Bob McKeon has helped.
McKeon, the retired social justice co-ordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, has dedicated his career to community development and social justice and channelled his energy to address poverty, health, hunger, housing, and economic development.
“I think he is the kind of person that walks the talk,” said Susan McGee, chief executive officer of Homeward Trust, which presented McKeon with this year’s Larry Shaben Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Housing Sector on March 9.
“He has very much lived a life by example — working in the community, being part of a co-operative to provide housing in McCauley — really not working on the fringes, but being right in the middle,” McGee said.
At the ceremony, McKeon was recognized for his teaching and his “profoundly influential” national leadership in the housing sector. Through the interfaith Capital Region Housing Initiative, he worked with religious leaders in support of Edmonton’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.
McKeon said receiving the award was a highlight of his career.
“In recognizing me, I think you’re acknowledging the contribution of the community sector, the role of local neighbourhoods and local community organizations, and certainly that includes the people in our churches with the Capital Region Housing Initiative,” McKeon said.
“All of us work together to address these issues of affordable housing and ending homelessness.”
The Larry Shaben Award was created in honour of the late MLA and cabinet minister who provided leadership in addressing housing issues across Alberta.
For more than three decades, McKeon has been involved in leadership positions with several community and church organizations in Edmonton’s inner city, addressing issues of poverty, health, hunger, housing, and community and economic development.
Until his retirement in 2016, McKeon was the social justice co-ordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton. In addition to his professional work, Bob is also a long-time resident of the McCauley community where he lives
McKeon is also a founding member of the InnRoads Housing Cooperative. His vision helped forge the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society, now called the Right at Home Society, which provides homes to more than 1,000 Edmontonians.
McKeon developed the No Room In The Inn campaign that raises money every year to assist non-profit housing providers in refreshing their facilities in order to better meet the needs of their tenants.
“I think working on really complex issues that we can’t solve in a day calls on people to persevere and commit themselves for the long haul,” McGee said.
“And that’s the kind of thing that I would say Bob exemplifies in his career, and is where I think the city of Edmonton has really benefited from leaders like Bob, that are willing to really commit themselves over a long period of time.”
McGee said homelessness won’t be solved overnight, and McKeon was willing to go the distance.
“There’s a lot of people who are very much behind efforts to end poverty and end homelessness in our community but perhaps haven’t put in the hours that somebody like Bob would to make sure that he’s really putting all of his energy behind it,” McGee said.
“I think I’ve always been really impressed with the degree Bob would prepare himself and make sure he really understood all the sides of an issue.”
McKeon said a lot more work needs to be done to end homelessness, and the key is to bring the conversation to every neighbourhood.
“It’s not just an inner-city issue … it’s going to be in all of our neighborhoods and we need to work to build welcoming and inclusive communities.”
WATCH: Archbishop Richard Smith, Homeward Trust CEO Susan McGee and others offer their congratulations: