City will spend $1M a year on Indigenous poverty and homelessness

The city will sink $1 million a year for the next 10 years into getting Indigenous Hamiltonians out of poverty — a move one worker says is a turning point.

The money comes from merging Horizon Utilities into Alectra

The city will use, in part, dividends from merging Horizon Utilities with Alectra to fund its $50 million poverty reduction plan. Mayor Fred Eisenberger signed the merger agreement last year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city will sink $1 million a year for the next 10 years into getting Indigenous Hamiltonians out of poverty — a move one worker says is a turning point.

The money will go toward fixing as many as 40 Indigenous social housing units a year, helping people stay in housing, family and life skills programs and more domestic violence help for women among other efforts.

Joshua Dockstator, vice president of the Hamilton Executive Directors' Aboriginal Coalition, says it'll make a "huge difference."

"You're investing in the fastest growing population in Canada," he told city council's general issues committee Wednesday.

The money is part of a $50 million, 10-year poverty plan Mayor Fred Eisenberger pitched last year. Much of it comes from increased dividends from merging Horizon Utilities with Alectra. Hamilton has a dearth of affordable housing, so councillors voted this year to sink most of the money into housing.

The plan includes spending $20 million in new affordable rental housing as a whole — as many as 35 units this year. Another $20 million will go to fixing units left vacant because there's no money to fix them. It will pay to fix as many as 1,600 units.

But the plan pays particular attention to Indigenous homelessness. Numbers show Indigeous people are about three per cent of Hamilton's population and about one third of its homeless. So, $10 million of the $50 million fund will go to Indigenous efforts.

Terry Whitehead, Ward 8 councillor, said other populations, like LGBTQ, are susceptible to homelessness too. But Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor, said the Indigenous population includes LGBTQ people too and it's in line with the federal Truth and Reconciliation process

Organizations getting the $50 million will report back regularly on the results. 

Here are some ways it's being spent this year:

  • Building as many as 35 new affordable housing units as a whole.
  • $457,000 toward Indigenous social housing and repairs. That includes more space for cultural teachings and support, tenant meetings and healing circles.
  • $62,000 toward basic life skills, housing stability and skills training for 32 to 40 Indigenous youth.

City council will cast a final vote on Sept. 27.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca