Funding from the provincial and federal governments will be used to construct 14 units in Lethbridge for Blackfoot women and their children who are looking to move to the city from nearby reserves.
Alberta’s minister of seniors and housing and the minister of indigenous relations were on hand to announce the project, which is aimed at supporting women relocating from the Kainai, Siksika and Piikani nations, on Wednesday.
A combined $3.4 million has been committed by the governments of Alberta and Canada, with the assistance intended to represent a different chapter for women who may be starting new jobs, attending school or fleeing difficult circumstances.
“When I first went into the city, I was a country boy, and it was a big transition for me,” said Rick Wilson, minister of indigenous relations.
“I can’t imagine somebody coming with a child and starting fresh. So to be able to have a facility like this — to be able to help them integrate into the urban situation — I think is going to be such a great asset for them.”
Wilson said the announcement comes at a crucial time, as the province is focused on reconciliation efforts.
“It’s very timely for me because I work very closely with our missing and murdered Indigenous women panel,” he said.
“It really kind of sets a stage and some groundwork to do some other work like this.”
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Blackfoot Family Lodge Society chair Lance Tailfeathers said the project has been in the works for a long time, with obvious demand in southern Alberta.
“Part of residency at the Blackfoot Family Lodge is that the ladies go through various training modules of life in the city and also returning to the cultural roots, so from that we thought we were getting overwhelmed because we just don’t have enough space for everybody that comes to the city of Lethbridge,” he said.
Tailfeathers said many members who transition to life in the city struggle with the adjustment and face stigma, and the goal is to provide them with the necessary resources to thrive in the long term.
“Part of the program, once you get them up and ready, then they’re free to go out on their own if they decide they want to go into other dwellings,” Tailfeathers said.
“But this is a sort of springboard for them, where they can learn those skillsets for living in the urban setting.”
The province expects the project will create about 25 jobs.
In Alberta, the funding is provided through the Indigenous Housing Capital Program (IHCP), which supports the development of affordable, off-reserve, off-settlement and on-settlement housing where it is most needed. Federal funding for IHCP is provided through the 10-year bilateral housing agreement between the federal and provincial governments announced in 2019.
According to the province, Alberta’s Capital Plan 2021 will invest $30 million in IHCP over three years, with the government already providing more than $26 million for seven projects to date, including the Blackfoot Family Lodge Society.