Excavation of a new supportive housing complex in the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta is set to begin on Wednesday, after a long and bumpy road for the group responsible.
Initiated by the Changing Horses NFP Society, the facility will be located behind the shelter in Moses Lake, Alberta, a community adjacent to the town of Cardston.
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According to the project’s chief innovator, Katie Rabit-Young Pine, several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed the start of the project.
“It’s been a good year and a half of wrestling,” she admitted.
With funding secured through Indigenous Services Canada, Changing Horses will be able to build four duplexes and a community hub that can accommodate between 16 and 21 residents.
“The main building (will have) the laundry room, showers, offices.”
Group brings supportive housing to Blood Tribe reservation
The current Moses Lake shelter is only open full-time during the winter months, meaning those who access its services have few options the rest of the year.
The selection of tenants for the new facility will be done in collaboration with the organization Family Community Support Services, which interacts daily with the homeless population.
“We were basically introducing a new approach to making things happen in our community,” Rabbit Young-Pine said. “Our Chief and Council are one group, we are another group. We are not in competition with anyone, we want to work with everyone.
Rabbit-Young Pine explained that they were initially looking for the more central Stand Off community for the resort, but were unable to find the space or the resources. Moses Lake was chosen after Changing Horses reviewed half a dozen other Blood Tribe sites.
Over 90% of the construction workers hired to build the duplexes are Indigenous, two of whom are currently homeless.
Volunteers build dormitories for the homeless in Moses Lake, Alberta.
“I think it’s really good because there are a lot of people who don’t have homes,” said Terence Black Plume, one of two homeless people hired to help build the facility.
Councilor Diandra Bruised Head, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday on behalf of the Blood Tribe Chief and Council, said while the housing shortage goes beyond just the homeless population shelter, this facility will provide additional support to the most vulnerable and those recovering from addiction.
“At the end of the treatment or at the end of certain programs, it was realized that they are placed, or that they have to return to the situations in which they were trying to escape,” Bruised Head said.
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“With this supportive housing complex, it adds another layer of support, it adds another layer of support to safety, to comfort for these people who are trying to build a better life for themselves.”
The project is due to wrap up by March 2023, but the band hopes to complete it this fall.
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