On Friday, the federal government released the results of its Rapid Housing Initiative. Indigenous people will be able to live in 40% of the new homes. Indigenous people account for a disproportionately high number of homeless people in Toronto. According to the federal government, the program is on track to create 4,700 new affordable housing units by 2021 across the country. The units are being constructed using a variety of “fast” methods, including modular housing and repurposing existing properties.
The rapid housing program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the Indigenous community’s homelessness crisis. “We’re seeing homelessness at crisis levels,” says the executive director of Na-Me-Res, an organization that provides housing for Indigenous men and women. According to the city’s survey, Indigenous people make up 16 per cent of Toronto’s homeless population and 38 per cent of those sleeping on the street. According to the government, an additional 20% of the federal housing program will be designated for affordable housing for women and girls. Wigwamen, a housing organization, is one of the organizations vying for funding to open more homes. Through the program, the group has applied to build a 62-unit facility as well as a smaller 12-unit facility.
There are also plans for more homes to be built and managed by local community groups. Teekens believes the most pressing need is for a national Indigenous housing strategy, which he claims is still unaddressed. When it comes to the prospect of a larger plan, he says, “all I hear is crickets.” He claims that when it comes to Indigenous housing, “the silence is deafening.”
News and picture source: CBC