Burnt-out Winnipeg apartment block transformed into housing for Indigenous youth

·2 min read
Tatyanna Monkman Hudson with her daughter, Kalila, inside the newly renovated Nenookaasiins block in Winnipeg. Hudson has been accessing services from Shawenim Abinoojii since she aged out of CFS care two years ago.  (Jaison Empson/CBC - image credit)
Tatyanna Monkman Hudson with her daughter, Kalila, inside the newly renovated Nenookaasiins block in Winnipeg. Hudson has been accessing services from Shawenim Abinoojii since she aged out of CFS care two years ago. (Jaison Empson/CBC - image credit)

A newly renovated apartment block in Winnipeg's North Point Douglas neighbourhood has been transformed from a derelict block into a place that about two dozen Indigenous youth will now be able to call home.

The Noble Court building, located at 126 Alfred Ave., was seriously damaged by fire in 2016, and had been abandoned for several years.

It's now been bought by Shawenim Abinoojii, an organization that provides culturally appropriate supports to youth and their families from eight southeastern Manitoba First Nations.

The block will provide affordable housing for youth who are either in the care of Child and Family Services or leaving care as young adults.

"This building comes from a place of love," Brandy Kowal, a program manager with the organization, said at a grand opening event on Friday.

"Everything that we have done to do this and to bring this place to life comes from our heart."

Jaison Empson/CBC
Jaison Empson/CBC

The building will now be called Nenookaasiins, which means "little hummingbird" in Ojibway.

Tatyanna Monkman Hudson, 23, and her young daughter have been accessing services provided by Shawenim Abinoojii since she aged out of government care at 21.

"It's been a positive impact and they've helped me out through so much.… When I was transitioning out of care they were a big support and still continue to be," she said at Friday's event.

"They've actually taught me to be a powerful leader."

Jaison Empson/CBC
Jaison Empson/CBC

The project aims to reduce homelessness in the Indigenous community. A recent survey found within a year of leaving CFS care, almost two-thirds of young people experienced homelessness.

The building can house up to 24 young people in 18 apartments, and has a cultural hub where residents can access employment programs and other resources. Youth can live in the home for a few months or a couple of years, depending on their need.

All three levels of government provided funding for the renovation, Kowal said.

"With that support we can bring our big ideas and create something like this and our youth are the ones that are going to benefit."

Jaison Empson/CBC
Jaison Empson/CBC

Point Douglas MLA Bernadette Smith called the space a game changer.

"We see so many kids that are aging out of care that are in so many different systems, and this is going to ensure that our families stay together, that they don't go into those systems," said Smith.

Smith said as the area's MLA, she had received numerous calls over the years about the burnt-out block.

"Hopefully this is one of many buildings that will be transformed in the North End."

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