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RHI to help Indigenous women, single men in Saskatoon

Affordable houses intended to help Indigenous women

SASKATOON — A multi-agency partnership is looking to gradually help solve the homeless crisis in the city by providing affordable housing units that would assist vulnerable members of the Indigenous community.

But the assistance is not going to be limited to shelter needs as Housing, Diversity, and Inclusion Minister Ahmen Hussen pointed out that providing support to other services will be included to help an individual to have a stable living condition.

“I would simply say that, obviously, when we talk about permanent housing solutions, we know that providing supportive services for addiction, counselling, employment, all kinds of things lead to more sustainable housing solutions,” said Hussen. “When we collaborate with provinces, municipalities, territories, Indigenous communities, and government, we take that into consideration. And I absolutely agree that mental health support and other supports are critical to making sure that people are housed in a sustainable manner.”

Hussen was joined by Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. Marv Friesen (Saskatoon-Riversdale Member of Legislative Assembly), Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark, Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, and Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. president Shirley Isbister.

Hussen and Friesen led the announcement of a $7.5-million Rapid Housing Initiative that would fund the construction of an estimated 32 new affordable houses that can be availed by individuals and families in Saskatoon through the Cities Stream.

RHI targets to help Indigenous people with nine of the 32 units intended for Indigenous women and their children. The expected completion rate will be the fall of next year and the project will create thousands of employment opportunities in the housing and construction sector.

The investment will not only help grow the middle class and build stronger communities, but it will also support the federal and local government’s aim in providing better solutions to eliminate homelessness in the country.

Hussen said that the federal government’s role is to assist provinces and territories.

“On a larger scale, provinces and territories are responsible for providing those supporting services. The federal government, through the national housing strategy, normally provides money to build the housing and to provide a level of affordability.”

He said, “In the case of the Rapid Housing Initiative, we’re paying for everything. Including the cost of land or buying the property but we have provided dedicated mental health funding for mental health support and we’re open to doing more.”

Friesen, who was just warming up on his position, added that there are also other challenges involving the issue of housing. “There is certainly more issues than just housing. This is something that I’m very passionate about and our government is very committed to mental health. I think we’re taking some serious steps in the right direction.”

Arcand said having strong partners like the federal and provincial governments is the big difference when it comes to funding.

“When I look at the operational funding and all the stuff that goes with it, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I think we’re going to really move in a forward direction. We just need to show results and outcomes that are favourable for the funding that’s going to be invested.”

He said that a two-storey, 18-unit facility will be available to disproportionately represented single males who are part of the homeless population.

“This supported living facility includes a family/cultural space, along with office and meeting spaces on the main level.”

“STC and our member Chiefs are proud to have Cress Housing Corporation serve as a proponent of this project contributing to this important work that improves the quality of life for people," said Arcand.

Isbister added that CUMFI is already doing supportive living in most of their homes.

“Our families that are part of our programming are supported up to 24 hours a day. You can put a roof over someone’s head, but without them having the dollars for food, medicine, or to meet the needs of their children, it’s not a home. We want these to be homes for our families and to do that we will be providing support for them to move in, to be able to access what they need in our community.”

She said CUMFI is please to be part of the RHI.

“With this funding, CUMFI will be able to provide 14 suites for families at risk of homelessness, with nine homes specifically for Indigenous women and children. By providing a supportive living environment, CUMFI’s goal is for families to have a roof over their head and food on the table, so they can begin to think about education, employment and feeling that they are part of a caring community.”

Clark said, from what he’s been constantly hearing from the community, is supported housing is one of the gaps that needs to be filled on the housing issue.

“It has become clear that one of the biggest gaps in the housing continuum in Saskatoon is supportive housing. People struggling with trauma, addictions and mental health need to have safe and stable housing. These two [RHI] [rojects will play a crucial role in helping fill this gap in our community.”

“Thank you to the Federal Government for the funding support and to City staff, SaskHousing and partners for your hard work facilitating this application process. We all have to work together, all levels of government, to ensure that continuum is really working well and as a community there’s a real understanding that the more we can fill the gap, the more we can end the cycle of homelessness. I know the federal government has made the commitment to end chronic homelessness.”

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the need to have affordable housing attainable to struggling individuals, which are affected by the increasing problem of homelessness. RHI will help fund the building of Cress Housing Corp. at 115 Columbian Place and a separate project for CUMFI at 1520 19th Street West in the city of Saskatoon.

Hussen said every Canadian deserves to have a safe and affordable place to live in.

“Today's funding through the [RHI] will go a long way to support those who need it most by quickly providing nearly 32 new affordable homes for vulnerable individuals and families in Saskatoon to keep them safe. This is one of the ways our National Housing Strategy continues to ensure no one is left behind.”

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