Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary opens new affordable housing for Indigenous elders

The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary celebrated the opening of the new Elders' Lodge on Monday, a new living facility for Indigenous seniors in Calgary. Global News

The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary celebrated the opening of the new Elders’ Lodge on Monday, a new living facility for Indigenous seniors in Calgary.

According to a City of Calgary news release, the facility will provide 12 affordable units for Indigenous seniors. It will also provide cultural gathering spaces for residents to practise land-based teachings, hold ceremonies and promote healing.

The project began construction in February last year, and the total project cost around $6 million to complete.

Last year, the Alberta and federal governments jointly provided a $2.3-million capital grant. It is part of Alberta’s Indigenous Housing Capital Program (IHCP), which aims to support Indigenous governments and communities to build affordable off-reserve, off-settlement and on-settlement housing.

The city said it supported the project by selling land below market value through the non-market housing land sale program and by providing expedited planning approvals for the project. The city also said the facility was built after collaborating with the Calgary Homeless Foundation and the Calgary Foundation.

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The building is an example of collaborating with Indigenous community members and committing to supporting Indigenous-led housing projects to address the needs of urban Indigenous elders, according to the city.

“This incredible and much overdue new facility will feature 12 units of affordable housing for Elders and provide cultural gathering spaces for residents to practice land-based teachings, hold ceremonies, and promote healing,” Shane Gauthier, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary’s chief executive officer, said in a statement on Monday.

Elders Reg Crowshoe and Rose Crowshoe said it is important to build ethical spaces for Indigenous seniors. Both were named members of the Order of Canada last year for their commitment to preserving Blackfoot culture and reconciliation.

“Without the wisdom and guidance of elders, we would not be here. We have to look after them,” Reg said at Monday’s event. “Our elders have faced racism and trauma. They need help, love and support.

“It’s unbelievable and the proudest moment of my life that we can stand here and say that we have a safe facility for our elders.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the new facility is an important step in embracing diversity and multiculturalism in Calgary.

“We are happy that the Aboriginal Friendship Centre was able to take advantage of the city’s program to offer below-market land and build this incredible facility,” Gondek told reporters on Monday.

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“We know that as people age, social isolation tends to set in. You go back to your roots and you have a desire to connect with the mother languages that you are familiar with and the traditions that you were brought up in.

“The Indigenous community is always very forward-thinking when it comes to inter-generational connection and having seniors and elders and knowledge keepers speaking with youth. This is one more place where they can gather and do that.”

Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon said the Alberta government is proud to support the project.

“What we see here is action. This is an Indigenous Elders’ Lodge built by Indigenous people for Indigenous people in the city of Calgary,” he said on Monday. “What we see here is what (the Alberta government’s) vision is for affordable housing in collaboration with Indigenous communities.”

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