The housing project is good news for Kahnawake

A new social housing project in Châteauguay is expected to somewhat alleviate the housing shortage in Kahnawake by reserving at least five single-person units in Kahnawa’kehró:non.

“It’s just good to see it all come together. Social housing seems to be a need everywhere right now,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) Chief Alan John Rice, who leads the Community Social Affairs portfolio.

“This place could definitely take some of the pressure off,” he said.

The project will convert rooms at Motel le Rustik into 31 studios for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in both communities.

“I understand Kahnawake has more of what they call invisible homelessness,” said Alana Kane, mental wellness and addictions manager at Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS).

“We could have a lot of people who are couch surfing, living with their families, but really can’t find or afford a home of their own.”

Rent will be set at a maximum of 25% of a person’s income and tenants will be allowed to stay as long as they wish.

The news comes as the MCK housing unit regroups with inquiries and studies after years of complaints that the community is experiencing a housing crisis.

“We need to have done this groundwork before we can really expand (housing) programs,” Rice said.

Tammy Whitebean, who circulated a petition a year ago demanding immediate action on housing, still sees a huge need in the community.

“It’s a great opportunity for some people who will get those spots, but here in the community we need more,” she said.

“I see messages every day from (people) here in Kahnawake looking for housing, emergency housing, whatever,” she said.

Kahnawake became involved in the Motel le Rustik project when its promoter, the Fédération régionale des OSBL d’habitation de la Montérégie et de l’Estrie (FROHME), reached out to KSCS for a letter of support.

“I think it’s really important for our organization to build bridges between Châteauguay and (Kahnawake),” said Martin Bécotte, director of FROHME.

This was echoed by the Liberal MP for the riding of Châteauguay-Lacolle which includes the motel, Brenda Shanahan.

“I am personally looking for the reaction of the Kahnawake community because I think this is a first for Châteauguay and Kahnawake, certainly for non-profit organizations that collaborate in this way,” she said.

“What I think is important in this project, in particular, is collaboration,” said Kane, who sits on the project’s planning committee.

According to Kane, FROHME contacted KSCS to see if there was interest in reserving some units for Kahnawa’kehró:non, which there was.

“Obviously many of our clients at KSCS are also people who may be suffering from a lack of housing in the community,” Kane said.

From a social services perspective, stable housing is often the first step for people to improve their lives in other ways, she noted.

“It’s a big deal when somebody doesn’t even have a proper place to call home,” Kane said. “It kind of makes everything else difficult, planning for the future or making changes in your life when you don’t even know where you’re going to sleep tonight.”

KSCS will provide psychosocial support to Kahnawa’kehró:non in the building who may need or want it, but it is not a prerequisite.

The MCK Housing Unit will be involved in developing the criteria and selecting Kahnawa’kehró:non for the apartments, but no local funding will be involved in the project beyond what is necessary for KSCS to provide the necessary services.

Additionally, the pool of government money used by FROHME was not earmarked for Indigenous communities, meaning these units are not at the expense of something else that could have benefited the community, Rice noted. .

FROHME is receiving $6 million from the federal and provincial governments for the project. Rice acknowledged that MCK wants Kahnawa’kehró:non to be able to stay in the community, but is nonetheless happy to see new emergency housing becoming available to residents.

“We want to do everything we can to improve the housing situation and improve the services we can provide,” Rice said.

The project should be finished by the end of the year.

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