A new multi-million-dollar transitional housing unit opened in Lethbridge on Friday.
Nearly 20 years in the making, the Blackfoot Family Lodge Society’s (BFLS) Soaring Hearts Project will welcome Indigenous women and their children relocating from the Kainai, Siksika, and Piikani reserves into Lethbridge.
“It’s an opportunity for a lot our Blackfoot women in transition that want to come to the city,” said Lance Tailfeathers, president of BFLS. “It’s always a challenge to find affordable housing and also get into a proper apartment rental.”
He added it’s important to set these women up for success.
“Not just giving them housing, but giving them programs to assist them living in the city and also still be connected to the Blackfoot culture.”
The Alberta Indigenous Housing Capital program helped fund nearly $3.4 million dollars and another $300,000 came from the city to deconstruct an existing church to make way for the two 7-unit row townhouses.
Tailfeathers said the government collaboration and acknowledgment of the needs of Indigenous peoples shows an intent reflecting Truth and Reconciliation.
Blaine Hyggen, mayor of the city of Lethbridge, added he’s happy there’s a place for the families to bring their roots to their new homes.
“There can be some areas for smudging. There can be areas to continue on with the culture that they’ve lived with for so many years and be able to carry that forward,” said Hyggen.
“Our hope is to provide a place where the women can grow, a place where they can feel safe,” said Mary Ann Crow Healy, executive director of BFLS.
Each townhouse unit has three bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen and backyard green space access.
Crow Healy said out of the more than 40 applicants, 14 residents will be selected and move in as early as Oct. 1.
Families can stay up to three years before moving to their own home and must follow rules, including no violence, drugs or alcohol.
“In order to have a safe community, we cannot allow those kinds of things to be happening in this area, “ said Crow Healy.
A daycare and the redevelopment of an existing residence into a 12-unit apartment are part of the next phase of construction.