The Noh Koh Waa Family & Youth Centre from the Shinah House Foundation is a place to call home for those who may be falling through the cracks.
First opened in June 2020, the centre is owned and operated by Indigenous peoples who strive to create a sense of family.
“I think it’s not only for the children, but it’s for us too,” said executive director Karen English.
“We are also healing in the process, and I think that’s what makes us unique.”
The centre uses Indigenous knowledge and values to create a holistic approach to wellness.
It has just under 30 staff who operate 24/7 family, adult and youth programming.
“I feel it’s really a blessing to have an establishment such as this where we feel the children will be more familiar with their roots, and to be able to understand their heritage,” said board chair and former Piikani chief Peter Strikes With A Gun.
“One of the youth that did come through our centre, she was really caught in the system — addicted,” English said.
“But what I’ve heard is that she’s doing well and living in northern Alberta, and she’s on a road of sobriety.”
On Tuesday, an official grand opening was held for a new facility in Fort Macleod, Alta., which is equipped with ceremony rooms, living areas, bedrooms, arts and crafts spaces and more.
“Currently we get referrals from designated First Nations authorities throughout Alberta who place children under us,” English explained, adding those nations pay through a fee-for-service model.
“We’re really developing a (well-rounded) program for the kids around Indigenous ways of knowing, but also things like yoga, meditation.”
According to Brent Feyter, the mayor of Fort Macleod, the building was previously a health-care unit and a temporary school.
He and other dignititaries such as MLA Roger Reid toured the new facility.
“There’s a lot of hurting youth, a lot of hurting children,” Feyter said. “How do we incorporate them into a safe place so they can know that they belong and are valued in a community?
“We look forward to seeing that happen in this space.”
Those behind the initiative hope to serve as an example to others and one day expand to land-based programming.