Housing crisis

Brandon housing crisis reflected in data | Spare News

A Brandon program to help homeless people in the city is calling for more affordable and transitional housing in light of census data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada that shows Indigenous peoples across the country are facing a housing crisis. lodging.

Homelessness in Brandon has seen a huge increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kris Olson, coordinator of Brandon Housing First, a program that helps individuals and families access and maintain permanent rental housing. .

Olson said, anecdotally, Indigenous people make up a high percentage of Brandon’s homeless population. The reasons behind this, he added, are manifold.

“Some are coming off the reservations,” Olson said. “Other people are passing through; others are just unlucky. There are so many variables and there are so many people right now that the agencies as a whole in Brandon… just aren’t equipped to handle that many people.

According to 2021 Census data released by Statistics Canada, the number of people who identify as Indigenous – 1.8 million nationwide – has increased by nearly double the rate of the non-Indigenous population, by 9.4% 2016 to 2021.

And although the number of Aboriginal people in inadequate housing has fallen slightly, it is still much higher than for non-Aboriginal people. In 2021, almost one in six Indigenous people lived in a home that needed major repairs, and more than 17% lived in overcrowded conditions.

Even though Brandon Housing First is operating above capacity, Olson said they never turn away potential clients. Even if they cannot provide them with accommodation immediately, the organization enters into a relationship with the person so that when services become available, they can move people to better situations more quickly.

Part of the organization’s approach is to provide outreach services to homeless people on city streets, instead of waiting for them to come. Olson said there is currently a gap in this type of outreach in Brandon.

“I believe a specific outreach approach is needed for Brandon, where people are on the streets gathering information and guiding people where they need to go,” Olson said.

While additional funding is important, he acknowledged that some programs are already in place to support housing, such as Reaching Home, the federal government’s homelessness strategy from which Brandon Housing First receives a financial support.

The 2022 federal budget committed $4.3 billion over seven years to help improve housing for Indigenous people. In addition, Ottawa has promised to develop a housing strategy targeting urban, rural and northern Aboriginal peoples, with a budget of $300 million over five years.

“I think the commitment from government needs to be bigger, because it’s not something that’s going to go away,” Olson said. “Unfortunately, the best thing we can do is try to mitigate [homelessness] and try to get people into houses faster.

The loss of Meredith Place, a transitional housing space, has been a blow to Brandon’s homeless population and to organizations like Brandon Housing First that try to provide relief.

Transitional housing is an intermediate step between emergency housing and permanent housing. Meredith Place, which was operated by YWCA Brandon, closed permanently in May due to structural and funding issues.

“Brandon needs transitional housing,” Olson said.

The Manitoba Métis Federation is working to address homelessness in the Métis community of Westman through the construction of affordable housing, first-time homebuyer assistance, and a program that helps Métis individuals and families to pay for improvements to their homes, said the Minister of the Federation. Housing and Property, Will Goodon.

“There’s actually quite a bit going on in the South West region,” Goodon told The Sun.

This includes eight housing units, made up of duplexes and triplexes, in Brandon, and two duplexes that opened this summer in Binscarth, 140 kilometers northwest of Brandon.

“They’re already full, and…I know there are people asking if we’ll build more there.”

Some accommodations, such as duplexes in Binscarth, are specifically for seniors and cost around $800 per month in rent, which also covers the cost of hydroelectricity.

“We want to make sure our seniors and elders are in a place where they don’t have to choose between paying rent or buying groceries or prescriptions.”

Goodon said the possibility of more affordable housing in Brandon was brought up at the MMF Southwest regional meeting held in Brandon on Sept. 17.

The federation also supports first-time buyers with a fund to help with legal and real estate costs. The program has helped over 70 Métis families purchase their first home in the past two years in Westman.

Another MMF program allocates funds to help people repair their homes so they can stay there longer.