A new not-for-profit group in Fort Providence, N.W.T., is raising money to build a seven-unit housing complex for people who need it.
Five community members formed the Community Advancement Partnership Society (CAPS) in November. Pat Mazerolle, one of the group's founding members, spoke with CBC Radio's The Trailbreaker this morning.
The following has been condensed and edited.
What does homelessness look like in Fort Providence?
Homelessness is different in Fort Providence for sure and I'm sure it's the same in some of the other communities. It's different than the larger cities where most people would think of homeless people living on the street in alleys using cardboard boxes to sleep on at night. That doesn't really happen here. People end up moving in with their families. What a lot of them do is — we call it couch surfing. So they'll spend three or four days at one house then go to the next house and spend three or four days there. It's all family members, friends. They may have a little bag and they just keep going around. Some of them may go into a house at night, or late at night so people don't see, and leave early in the morning, for the same reason, and they'll walk around for a while.
Tell us about this group you're part of and the building you want to put up.
It's going to be a well structured building; we want to make it energy efficient if possible, a net zero energy efficient building. It will be small units, 325-square-foot units, so it's not going to be a great accommodation, but there'll be a small bedroom, a kitchenette and a living and dining room with a very small bathroom. Probably for most people you can relate to it as going into a hotel suite or a kitchenette. It's pretty frugal but it'll be safe and it'll be their own spot. We expect that it will hold one person or maybe a couple.
You also want to offer support to people who may end up living there?
We don't just want to find them a place to stay and forget about them. We're trying to work with the local services here such as the RCMP, the probation officer, and the social workers to develop some kind of strategy or plan for each individual who comes in. We're going to have more people wanting to use our facility than we're going to have space for so we're going to have to develop some criteria. One is to try and identify people who actually want to try to improve their lot in life.
What are the challenges people face when it comes to sorting out housing right now in Fort Providence?
Well, you have to get on a local waiting list. Most of [the homeless] have issues with being able to get on the list. Some of them it's because they've had problems before in the past with various addiction problems. They may owe back rent. They may owe damages. They may have been evicted because of excess noise, partying. They all have different issues and some of them just don't bother applying anymore because they've given up and they don't have anybody to help them. Some of them don't understand what's going on with their legal rights or the appeal process if they have been evicted.
Will seven units address the housing need in the community?
Absolutely not. It'll put a fairly good dent in it but probably only 25 per cent of the need.
How will the building will be paid for?
One of the things we're starting is a fundraiser called Chase the Ace. It has a possibility of raising a fair amount of money. It has in a few areas in Canada already. To be able to do this by the summer we're going to have to be able to tap into some government funding programs that are already in existence. We're already working on that and if that comes to fruition we should be able to have this building up by mid-summer.
When do you imagine people moving in?
I would say the end of July, if everything falls into place. We're trying not to promote it too much within the community because we don't want to give them false hope, either, because we're not in complete control of when this can actually all happen. There's other people that are involved, like other departments and government officials and that type of thing. We're just hoping that everybody comes on board.
Our group can work fairly fast. We don't have to wait till the end of the month to have our regular meeting. We have meetings basically almost every day over coffee or through email, so we can make decisions fairly quickly ourselves.