British Columbia

Nak'azdli First Nation builds 'tiny houses' for homeless men

Four men over the age of 55 have just moved into the first homes they've ever owned on the Nak'azdli Whut'en reserve. The First Nation is building 'tiny houses' as an innovative solution to homelessness.

'Everybody deserves to have a home,' says capital housing and lands manager

Aileen Prince hands the resident of a newly-built 'tiny house' on the Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation reserve the key to his new home. (Nak'azdli Whut'en)

Four men on the Nak'azdli Whut'en reserve northwest of Prince George have just moved into the first homes they've ever owned as part of a pilot project that's using "tiny houses" to combat homelessness.

"We didn't know what to expect. We just thought, you know, they don't deserve to be treated like this," said Aileen Prince, the capital housing and lands manager for Nak'azdli. "They deserve to be treated like anyone else."

Prince came up with the idea after seeing TV shows about tiny houses. Compact homes have surged in popularity for people looking at affordable — and sometimes portable — living options.

"I thought, you know, that's something that really could alleviate some of the problems we're having with housing people on the reserve," she said.

'Couldn't get the grin off his face'

Working with the band office, land was set aside for a pilot project, and Prince started taking applications from people within the community to move into the tiny homes. They had to be over the age of 45, and had to be people who had never owned a home or rental property before.

Each 'tiny house' is just 320 square feet but contains a washroom and a stacking washer and dryer set. (Nak'azdli Whut'en)

Four men were chosen, and they moved into their new homes last Friday. Prince said it's already made an obvious difference to their lives. She described the reaction of the first man to receive keys.

"He was just super excited, he just couldn't get the grin off his face," she said. "I've seen the transition that's happened with him. His place is spotless, he won't let people smoke in his house, he's very much changed what he does during the day. 

He's got some books now that he's started to read and I just thought, wow, this is amazing- Aileen Prince

"Before it was just, basically, you know, looking for something to drink. And now he feels like he's got a place to just relax. And he was telling one of our other workers that he's got some books now that he's started to read and I just thought, 'wow, this is amazing.'"

Each "tiny house" is just 320 square feet, but they all have a washroom, a washing machine and a dryer. 

The band holds the mortgages to the homes, but the men pay the costs and utilities every month. Prince estimates it will take about five years for the band to recoup the initial costs.

In the meantime, she's already looking towards building the next set of houses for people in the community who want their own tiny home.

"Everybody deserves to have a home."

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