BY SUSAN ZIELINSKI
A study to find solutions to eliminate homelessness and improve housing access for aboriginals in Red Deer will soon be underway and led by Shining Mountains Living Community Society.
Executive director Raye St. Denys said the city’s recent Point in Time count showed 40 per cent of homeless were aboriginal.
“Considering we make up four per cent of the population, that’s a bit unbalanced,” said Denys on Tuesday.
She said the aboriginal community will lead the project because there is a need for understanding and respect that was identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“We have the right to determine these things in our own communities.”
The project called Aboriginal Voices on Housing Network will look at the state of housing and will include recommendations for the city, Shining Mountains and others.
Developing an aboriginal housing strategy will involve consultation with people who have been homeless, both mainstream and aboriginal service providers, and research into best practices.
She said the strategy will provide tools to work with mainstream service providers to help them be more culturally aware and appropriate when interacting with aboriginals.
“There’s still a lot of racism and stigma and discrimination here in Red Deer. I’m not trying to blame anybody. But that still exists here in Red Deer.”
Denys said when a visibly aboriginal person is shopping, for example, it is highly likely that he or she will be followed by security.
“Whereas if you’re a less visibly prominent aboriginal — you can pass is the term — you don’t get that.”
Shining Mountains received $96,159 in Homelessness Partnering Strategy funding from the federal government for Aboriginal Voices on Housing Network. The funding runs until March 31, 2019.