Dryden, Ont. program to help Indigenous single moms now taking applications
The first round of the program is expected to begin in April
A new program in Dryden, Ont. that's designed to help vulnerable Indigenous single moms become self sufficient, is now taking applications.
The Dryden Urban Indigenous Homeward Bound Project is a four-year program geared to help Indigenous single mothers help break the cycle of dependency of social services by helping them with affordable housing, child care, education and employment training.
"It's actually a four-year wrap-around support service employment training" program, Dryden Native Friendship Centre executive director Sally Ledger said, "so the idea is is you wrap your clients around with all the essential services that they need, so that they can be successful and get a step up in life."
Ledger said the original program model was based on a similar initiative in Toronto, and she and her team in Dryden decided to adapt the model to focus on helping Indigenous moms and their children.
"[For] our initiative, we are trying to get the most vulnerable population — the ones that we can make the biggest impact in — and we've identified in our community that is, urban Indigenous women," Ledger said.
The program which took approximately two years to set up is a collaborative initiative between many community partners Ledger said, including the Kenora District Services Board, Confederation College, the City of Dryden and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services.
She added that this project could not have been possible without the sponsorship of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres and Woodgreen.
Intake begins, construction to start later
The project aims to help approximately 10 to 15 woman every year and according to Ledger they've had a lot of interest in the first round of the program already.
"When we take the women in, we'll be doing an assessment with them to ensure that they're ready to take this life changing initiative," Ledger explained.
"So they come in [and] they get the wrap around support [and] the first entrance is the pre-course. From there we will connect them with a college diploma course ... [and] from the college course they get a one-year on the job training, from [there] we support them to get adequate employment."
She said the former Pinewood School in Dryden has been successfully re-zoned in order to provide affordable housing and child care for women participating in the program.
"So the Pinewood School will actually have 15 family units from two bedrooms to four bedrooms ... and on site will also be a family centre where we will be having 30 openings for 30 seats for all ages of children," Ledger said.
With the program gearing up for its first round in April and construction of the Pinewood School yet to begin, Ledger said the women participating will have to stay at their current subsidized housing until the family units are ready at the end of the year.
Ledger said the Dryden Friendship centre is not the only place that's taking on this initiative, as six other friendship centres across the province are also starting pilot projects based on the same model.
"We are all at various stages of implementation and we've all adapted the project to meet our community needs, so they are not all the same — they have the same concept — but individually are being addressed slightly different," Ledger said.