North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre fighting for homeless First Nations people
NORTH BAY -- The North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre is asking for more collaboration with the city and the District of Nipissing Social Services Board (DNSSAB) to address the city's homeless situation that is disproportionately affecting First Nation people in town.
A recent study from DNSSAB found that 42 per cent of homeless people in the North Bay area are Indigenous, even though they are only 14 per cent of the population.
"There shouldn't be that many numbers in North Bay considering the resources that we have," said Kathy Fortin, the friendship centre's executive director.
Fortin said many First Nation people will come to the city in hopes of finding a better opportunity before they end up on the streets. She's said more help is needed.
"We're in a crisis right now. Working collaboratively will help," she said. "As well as sharing the financial resources and allocating funds that are meant to be Indigenous should be allocated to Indigenous organizations."
The friendship centre has a program called the Suswin Navigator Support Program where two support workers go out into the community and help First Nation people find a place to call home. The program's funding runs out in March and the centre said it needs financial help to keep it running.
"Letting the homeless know exactly to navigate the system is very hard," Fortin said. "Let alone for anybody else that's new to the city."
City Councillor Mark King is the chair of the DNSSAB and said he is aware of the many difficulties First Nation people face when they are looking for the right support.
"We will have our people reach out to the chair of the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and the (chief administrative officer) and we'll have a discussion about how we can mitigate any of those problems," King said.
The friendship centre is hoping to have shovels in the ground this spring to build a 30-room transitional housing unit, which will be located right across the street, and have it open in the fall of 2022.
"It will have trauma-informed service workers that know what Indigenous people have gone through throughout history or through their lives and they’ll be able to be sensitive to those issues," Fortin said.
The friendship centre said continued talks with the city will help address the homeless crisis.