It took a decade, but the dream of opening an affordable living complex in Red Deer for low-income indigenous people has finally materialized.
The first tenants have moved into Asooahum Crossing with the completion of the first of two buildings at 4609 Riverside Dr.
Samantha Shortneck is very grateful to get her own space, in which she can continue to work on getting back custody of her two sons, who are now in foster care.
The native of the Sunchild reserve was in foster care herself when younger, and is now taking positive steps to overcome her troubled childhood. One of the most important, after achieving sobriety, is moving into her own apartment instead of the rooming house where she’d been living with six other people.
The 26-year-old believes she had difficulty getting her own place before because she’d always lived with other people and lacked references.
The two-bedroom suite Shortneck is renting for $795 a month has space for when her sons visit. “Here I can be more stable, have my own routine…” The accomplished aboriginal fancy dancer and her Kukum (grandmother), spent Thursday evening enjoying the peaceful view of the wooded river valley.
“This is a chance for me to be healthy and get back my kids,” said Shortneck, who plans to become a hairdresser.
The second of the twin buildings of eight suites, with two- or three-bedrooms for low-income indigenous tenants, will be ready in July, said Larry Cunningham, a volunteer board member helping oversee the project. Two suites per building are wheelchair-accessible.
The $5-million affordable housing project was first proposed by the Red Deer Native Friendship Society about 10 years ago. But although the majority of funding was obtained from the province and the city (there’s a $1.75 million mortgage), it was a struggle to find a location that was acceptable to the community.
“It’s been a slow process,” said Cunningham, a retired business owner. But “it feels good” to accepting tenants. He noted, “A lot of people have worked very hard to get it here…”
Knowing how difficult it is for low-income people to advance, he feels having nice, affordable accommodations ”gives them a step up… Hopefully it will help them to keep growing.”
Tenants of Asooahum Crossing, who pay 10 per cent less than market rates for apartments, must agree to not smoke in the suites and it’s a no drinking/no drugs environment. The Red Deer Native Friendship Society is still accepting applications for other potential tenants.
The next phase will be building an aboriginal cultural centre with suites on the upper level on the same site.