Snuneymuxw First Nation and the City of Nanaimo have teamed to provide transitional housing and support for members of the First Nation who are experiencing homelessness.
At a press conference this morning, Sept. 8, the First Nation and the city announced that three portable buildings, with four units apiece, will be set up on Snuneymuxw’s longhouse property in Cedar. One building, already on site, is expected to be occupied in the coming weeks, while the others are anticipated to be operational in February. The units come with a studio-style bedroom, kitchenette, washroom and shower, with one unit in each building able to accommodate those with physical disabilities.
Coun. Bill Yoachim, Snuneymuxw acting chief, said the housing crisis not only affects residents in Nanaimo, but the First Nation as well.
“In our population, we’re pushing around 2,000 members and we have a population of around 650-700 members on reserve and unfortunately in our last data, there was 50-100 people in need of homes,” said Yoachim. “Different levels and different mental health issues and addictions unfortunately … we’re working together and trying to roll our sleeves up and start tackling this problem.”
There will be a range of supports, he said, available through the Snuneymuxw health centre, Kwumut Lelum and the First Nations Health Authority, including counselling and addictions counselling.
Matthew Stephens, transitional housing support worker, said it’s beneficial that there is a health centre close to the housing.
“Any of the tenants moving in here will be connected with staff there, so we have counsellors, doctors, nurses, all on site,” he said. “We’ll be encouraging the tenants to connect with them … the expectation is that we’re going to be really working primarily on housing, supporting them with things that will help them maintain their housing, as well as also try to find other housing in the community.”
Drugs and alcohol will not be allowed on site.
“It’s a clean-and-sober living facility,” said Snuneymuxw Coun. Kate Good. “That’s one of the criteria … it’s transition, it’s not a long-term living facility.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the project is a result of co-operation and others should take note.
“It is real reconciliation in action and the results are going to be incredibly positive for people whose lives look pretty grim, prior to them being able to have housing,” he said. “I hope it will be an example to other communities across the province and indeed across the country. You can do work together and you can produce good results and produce something that’s real and this is real.”
The city applied for the federal and provincial governments’ Strengthening Communities’ Services Program in 2021 and was granted $2.5 million. The program provides money for supports for people experiencing homelessness, noted the press release. The city and the First Nation will share servicing costs for the units, as it is not allowed under grant regulations, noted a press release.
There are also plans for a communal space near the buildings, according to Yoachim.