Indigenous housing is a priority for the region, according to a report published earlier this month that came out of the Campbell River Housing workshop held last November.
The report highlights housing priorities for Campbell River and the Strathcona Regional District and touched on Indigenous housing, increasing density and diversity of housing available and advocates for the Strathcona Regional District to take on a stronger role in supporting affordable housing in the area.
Indigenous Housing has been on Strathcona Community Health Network’s (SCHN) radar since 2018, when a gap was identified in the Strathcona Housing Needs Assessment published that year. SCHN started the Urban Indigenous Housing Committee to explore diverse housing options that would benefit the First Nations communities in the area.
Nick Chowdhury, co-chair of the committee said that “there is a strong interest among community partners to think and work outside the box of normal thought and planning. It is also recognized that historically and in some cases today that indigenous families live in a more communal setting – this may further drive the interest to plan differently.”
Around 12 per cent of Campbell River residents identify as Indigenous. The committee has been working to communicate with several nations on how best to provide suitable housing for those in need. Focus should be put on defining what the desired outcomes for suitable housing would be, as well as securing land and building partnerships with developers.
However, Chowdhury and the committee are trying to ensure that mistakes made in the past around housing are avoided. Consultation with all First Nations groups concerned is one way the committee is working on this issue.
“We have grown to engage and communicate with several nations, organizations and tribal councils, who have large numbers of people and families living in Campbell River. The expertise and experience in our group has grown and is supported by community engagement to gather further information on needs and concerns for urban indigenous housing,” he said.
Other groups involved have been the Sasamans Society and Laichwiltach Family Life Services, as well as the different tribal councils and groups.
The housing crisis affecting First Nations people is the result of colonial practices and leadership, problems which have compounded over the years. The report identified integrated services as well as cultural spaces representing the diversity of Indigenous people as well as multi-generational housing as ways to move past the colonial housing model. Putting the power back into the hands of the First Nations people affected by the crisis is a step towards decolonizing housing.
“I feel there is already much interest to decolonize housing among the different groups involved so far,” Chowdhury said. “Decolonization begins with the self: self-reflection, learning and growth are integral to decolonizing and how we find that is a journey. We have begun, we will continue and we need to attract more to work through this journey with us.”
The full report can be read at the SCHN website.