Excavation for a new supportive housing complex on the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta is scheduled to start on Wednesday, after a long and bumpy road for the group in charge.
Initiated by Changing Horses NFP Society, the facility will be located behind the shelter at Moses Lake, Alta., a community adjacent to the town of Cardston.
According to project lead innovator Katie Rabit-Young Pine, several factors including the COVID-19 pandemic created delays in getting the project going.
“It’s been a good year-and-a-half of struggle,” she admitted.
With funding garnered through Indigenous Services Canada, Changing Horses will be able to construct four duplexes and a community hub to house between 16-21 residents.
“The main building (will) have the laundry, showers, some office space.”
The current shelter in Moses Lake is only open full-time throughout the winter months, meaning those who access its services have few options the rest of the year.
Selection of tenants for the new facility will be done in conjunction with the Family Community Support Services organization, which interacts with the homeless population on the daily basis.
“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’re another group. We’re not in competition with anyone, we want to work with everyone.”
Rabbit-Young Pine explained they were initially looking at the more central community of Stand Off for the complex, but weren’t able to find the space or resources. Moses Lake was chosen after Changing Horses looked at half a dozen other sites on the Blood Tribe.
More than 90 per cent of construction workers hired to build the duplexes are Indigenous, two of whom are currently homeless.
“I think it’s really good, because there are a lot of people out there that don’t have homes,” said Terence Black Plume, one of two homeless individuals hired to help construct the facility.
Councillor Diandra Bruised Head, who attended Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony on behalf of Blood Tribe chief and council, said while the housing shortage goes beyond just the homeless population, this facility will provide extra support to the most vulnerable and those recovering from addiction.
“At the end of treatment or at the end of certain programs, we realized that they are placed, or they have to go back to the situations in which they were trying to escape,” Bruised Head said.
“With this supportive housing complex, it adds another layer of help, it adds another layer of aid of safety, of comfort for these individuals who are trying to make a better life for themselves.”
The project is required to wrap up by March 2023, but the group hopes to have it finished this fall.