The COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction of a supportive housing project for Indigenous youth and elders by a month, but the social agency behind it is expecting to take occupancy by September.
Lii Michif Otipemisiwak (LMO) is building the 31-unit facility in Brocklehurst for First Nations elders and younger residents — ages 16 to 27 — of First Nations, Inuit and Métis backgrounds.
The $4.7-million housing complex — known officially as Kikekyelc: A Place of Belonging — was originally scheduled to be operational by June, but a suspected case of COVID-19, which turned out to be unfounded, shut down the construction site for two weeks earlier this year.
Seanna Proulx, LMO manager of Indigenous youth and housing, said following that, the number of workers allowed on the site at any given time was reduced due to the pandemic and the project was delayed about a total of four weeks.
“We’re looking now at completion likely to happen sometime in August,” Proulx said, noting they will then need to acquire an occupancy permit.
Sept.1 has now been earmarked as their move-in date, she told KTW.
All 26 rooms in Kikekyelc for youth who have been involved with the child-services system or who have aged out of care have been booked. There is now a wait list of five and growing as word spreads that the project is nearing completion, Proulx said.
The five units for elders are expected to be filled by Sept. 1, but there may still be one spot to fill by that time, she said.
Kikekyelc will have 24/7 wraparound services offered on site and LMO is just now in the process of getting job postings together.
Proulx said the housing complex is about 85 per cent complete — describing the second floor as about 95 per cent finished and the first floor as roughly 80 per cent done, with work started on the outside in the past two weeks.
“We got cement poured for the walkways and landscapers are in doing landscaping,” Proulx said.
LMO received funding from the Royal Bank of Canada to hire youth who have moved through the provincial child-services system — about 10 of whom will call Kikekyelc home when it’s complete, Proulx said, noting they have taken pride in the project.
With an overrepresentation of First Nations youth in the foster care system, Proulx stressed the importance of the residence as many people flounder with tasks such as finding employment and a place to live when they age out of the system.