A 27-year-old man from the Big River First Nation (BRFN) in northern Saskatchewan was living in a travel camper but thanks to a community fundraiser, he was the lucky recipient of a brand new cabin — a place where he now calls home.
For the past two years, Randall Rabbitskin has been living in a rundown camper trailer. Due to the housing crisis in his community, he had been on a waiting list for a house for almost four years. But he continued to wait until his luck turned for the better.
“I was overwhelmed and excited at the same time,” said Rabbitskin, after finding out that he was the lucky recipient.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to achieve such a goal.”
What started as a way to create more housing for a community has given Rabbitskin a roof over his head. Back in 2019, leaders and community members at the BRFN picked up their hammers and started building housing units to address a housing crisis. They put together a fundraiser and sold raffle tickets at $50 each for a new cabin to gather more money for supplies.
This was the second raffle the community has done to address the housing issue. From the first raffle draw, the team raised $27,000 and purchased the materials to buy the cabin that Rabbitskin won.
Through the recent fundraiser, the team raised $47,000 with the proceeding going toward the future construction of more cabins. BRFN Chief Jack Rayne says this highlights the issue and that there’s still more work to be done.
“We have a big crisis here, like all across Canada. We’re all in a crisis when it comes to housing. We have big families — sometimes three to four families living in one housing unit,” he said.
“So we are trying to find alternative ways to help out our community members.”
The housing crisis in First Nation communities was recently addressed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in a prepared statement that calls on the federal government to commit substantial funds to First Nations housing.
“Our Treaty right to shelter must be recognized and honoured by Canada. We require housing investments now. … This issue isn’t going away,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a media release.
“FSIN has been lobbying for decades for our First Nations people and requires serious investment in (the upcoming) federal budget to improve housing conditions for First Nations people living on and off reserve.”
The federal budget will be released Thursday. Even though it isn’t known how many dollars will go toward First Nations housing, the BRFN is taking matters into its own hands by addressing the housing crisis, one cabin at a time.
Rabbitskin hopes to move into his new home by the end of the month after the finishing touches are completed.
A GoFundMe page has been created by community leaders to help purchase appliances, furniture, build a foundation, and install running water for Rabbitskin’s new home.