Residents will soon move into new housing built specifically for Indigenous elders and seniors in Calgary.
The Indigenous Elders' Lodge, in north Calgary community Highland Park, officially opened Monday.
In a media release, the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary (AFCC) said the building is a 12-unit facility, which provides affordable housing for elders and cultural gathering spaces. Residents will move in this month.
The AFCC said the project comes during a profound housing crisis.
"This will not just be a building, but a safe space for Indigenous seniors who are 'vulnerable' or 'at-risk' and have likely experienced discrimination, abuse, exclusion and hardship. This six-million-dollar building is a welcoming place for our seniors to socially connect and access supports that will improve their lives," AFCC CEO, Shane Gauthier said in a media release.
Shane Gauthier, Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary CEO, speaks at the grand opening Monday. (Jo Horwood/CBC)
The $5.7 million facility was funded by the Government of Alberta, Calgary Homeless Foundation, Calgary Foundation, and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The City of Calgary sold the land for the project below market value and provided expedited planning approvals for the project.
Blackfoot elder Jackie Bromley described the Elders' Lodge as "a safe space to live for elders to build communication, explore language and reconnect with culture."
Reg Crowshoe, from Piikani First Nation, said elders are important.
"Our culture and our traditional knowledge is oral. So since our culture was our knowledge — it wasn't written then we need the language to access the knowledge, and the elders have the knowledge and the language."
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said any success will be shared.
"I have made a commitment to the Prairie mayors in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton to work with them to make sure that when something works here, we port that model out to other places as well," she said.
Reg Crowshoe speaks at the building's grand opening Monday. (Jo Horwood/CBC)
Gondek said she's looking forward to more projects guided by cultural practices. The city opened $6 million in funding for Indigenous housing applications earlier this year.
"By providing not only safe and affordable places to live but also a variety of cultural activities and supports, the Elders' Lodge promises to be yet another shining example of the effectiveness of Indigenous-led solutions," Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson, said in a media release.