‘Tiny’ pi­lot project could have big re­wards for Pi­ikani Na­tion

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Fol­low @JWSch­nar­rHer­ald on Twit­ter J.W. Sch­narr LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD — BROCKET

Anew pi­lot pro­gram on the Pi­ikani Na­tion could see young peo­ple earn­ing work­place ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing tiny houses to com­bat the housing cri­sis.

The Pi­ikani Na­tion was se­lected for a pi­lot project through Indige­nous Ser­vices Canada in or­der to help ad­dress the sin­gle-oc­cu­pant adult liv­ing short­ages on many First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties.

Twelve high school stu­dents from Peigan Sec­ondary School will be con­struct­ing a small, sin­gle oc­cu­pant dwelling — a so-called “tiny home” — with as­sis­tance from Your Choice Home, Inc. The prop­erty will be the first of its kind in the area. Build­ing the home will pro­vide the stu­dents with work ex­pe­ri­ence in the trades.

The goal of the pro­gram is to as­sist youth in over­com­ing bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment and pro­vide qual­ity em­ploy­ment in the com­mu­nity.

Your Choice Homes is a First Na­tions build­ing com­pany and the first to cre­ate this type of pro­gram for First Na­tions.

Through the Con­struc­tion 101 pro­gram, Your Choice pro­vides hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence with a job site trailer that func­tions as a class­room, as well as equip­ment and safety gear for stu­dents. The stu­dents will also have an op­por­tu­nity to earn their WHIMIS, fall pro­tec­tion, and first aid tick­ets.

Jay Noel, com­mu­nity part­ner with YC Homes, said the com­pany be­came in­volved af­ter re­search­ing the housing is­sues faced in many First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties. They found a lack of prac­ti­cal arts train­ing in schools.

“What we did was we thought we’d bring them to­gether un­der housing through education,” he said.

“A lot of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties buy (homes) from out­side the com­mu­nity,” he added. “The stu­dents have only seen houses roll in on wheels.

“What hap­pens here is — com­bin­ing with the school — the stu­dents are able to get a prac­ti­cal arts pro­gram and be part of a build in their com­mu­nity that they get to look at and be part of.”

By­ron Jackson, Pi­ikani Na­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said there sim­ply aren’t enough homes on the Pi­ikani Na­tion to sus­tain all the peo­ple liv­ing there. He said in 2015, chief and coun­cil iden­ti­fied 419 dwellings and as many as 2,700 peo­ple liv­ing on the Pi­ikani Na­tion.

“A housing cri­sis here in Pi­ikani is def­i­nitely some­thing that has been looked at for a long time,” he said.

One area these tiny homes could ben­e­fit the Na­tion is in pro­vid­ing housing for El­ders.

Jackson said once chil­dren leave the nest, some El­ders are left to them­selves in large homes.

“A tiny home to shrink (that empty space) down is a lot less bear­ing on some­body,” he said. “Es­pe­cially when you have to do the main­te­nance and stuff like that.”

Pi­ikani Na­tion Elder Joyce Lit­tle Mous­tache has been se­lected to move into the home once it is com­pleted, which should take about eight weeks, ac­cord­ing to Jackson.

About $250,000 in fund­ing through Indige­nous Ser­vices Canada was pro­vided for the project, and that money will be used to build the home and pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture work such as wa­ter, sewer and elec­tri­cal tie-ins.

“It’s all-en­com­pass­ing,” Jackson said.

Her­ald photo by J.W. Sch­narr @JWSch­nar­rHer­ald

Com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered at Peigan Se­condary School in Brocket on the Pi­ikani Na­tion on Wed­nes­day to take part in a sod-turn­ing cer­e­mony for a pi­lot pro­gram which will teach stu­dents job site con­struc­tion skills and pro­vide sin­gleoc­cu­pant housing in...

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