PEI

Abegweit First Nation striving to build enough homes for all members

Members of Abegweit First Nation are building a record number of homes in Scotchfort The goal is to create enough houses so that every member who wants to live in the community can eventually return from elsewhere and do so.

'Build a good community, you build a good future on a solid foundation'

Chris and Adam Jadis are two members of Abegweit First Nation who are helping build homes in the community about 25 minutes northeast of Charlottetown. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

It's the type of place where strangers wave at strangers as they drive past with the windows rolled down, coyotes howl at night, and there's a storybook view of the Hillsborough River. 

It's undeniably beautiful. 

But to those impacted by the First Nations housing crisis, Abegweit First Nation is a home without enough houses. 

Members of Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort are building a record number of homes this year. The goal is to make sure everyone has the chance to return home and live in the community. It also means community members are gaining skills in the trades and modern building techniques. 6:26

"I'm going after more houses in the future and I'm going after more right after that," Chief Junior Gould told CBC News. 

"It's nonstop until we have every person that wants to come home [able] to come home, and we have everybody in here have a roof over their head that deserves it."

'To be in charge of your future, in charge of your destiny, is to take control of it and move in the direction you want, to be able to provide those supports and help to your community,' says Chief Junior Gould. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Work to make that plan a reality has already started in Scotchfort. 

Typically, one or two homes are constructed over the course of each summer. But this year with the help of federal funding, a record number are being built by community members themselves. 

"It's for us, by us," said Gould. "We have a great, vibrant, professional workforce in the Abegweit First Nation and it just hasn't been utilized to its full extent." 

'Very rewarding'

The hope is to have construction on about a dozen homes started by the end of the year. Five of those are part of a rapid housing project, with the band aiming to have construction completed in October.

"For us to be doing five homes at once is a large undertaking on its own, because it has never been done in the Abegweit First Nation history before — let alone being internally built by community members," said Chris Jadis, a band councillor who is also looking after housing and infrastructure projects.  

'It's going to drastically help with the housing crisis that's in our community,' says Chris Jadis — not to mention the employment opportunities. (Sheehan Desjardins/ CBC News)

On top of filling the need for homes, Jadis said the push will also create jobs. 

"I've built homes off-reserve and did work off-reserve, and to be able to actually do something for my own community —it's been very rewarding."

As the rapid-build project wraps up, another stage of building will begin, a passive solar housing project that will use the sun to help heat and cool several other new homes. 

That work is slated to begin in August on a hot section of land with no visible shadows.

Chief Gould says the passive solar housing project will be sited on this sunny lot of land. (Sheehan Desjardins/ CBC News)

"Once we start our next phase of the development… these grounds will be blessed," said Gould. 

"Especially with the passive solar part of it, we feel it's a holistic approach [with] Mother Earth being respected and we use the elements in nature that the Creator has given us."

'We're creating a future'

The community is growing in several other ways too. There's a new child-care centre being built, a community centre is underway and a plan is in the works to reconnect Abegweit First Nation with the Hillsborough River. 

"There's no stopping development and moving forward once the ball starts rolling," said Gould.

"Build a good community, you build a good future on a solid foundation." 

So as each board gets laid and the nails are hammered in, something even stronger than concrete seems to grow from the construction zones, according to Gould. 

"The kids in the community see what's going on... They want to go to school. They want to become educated. They want to be the nurses that work at the health centre. They want to be the doctors that can come back and provide a service to the community. They want to be the construction guys. They want to be the machinery operators.

"This is what it's all about and we're doing that and we're creating a future for us."

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