I won't be as fast.
Hi everyone, and thank you for inviting me here today to speak on this critical piece missing from the 2017 national housing strategy.
My name is Robert Byers and I am the president and CEO of Namerind Housing Corporation in Regina, Saskatchewan. I am also the chair of the indigenous caucus of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, which represents the interests of indigenous housing and service providers across the country.
Namerind is an indigenous non-profit housing provider in Regina, Saskatchewan. Our mission is to provide safe and affordable quality housing and economic development opportunities for indigenous people in Regina.
In 1977, our community determined a great need for affordable housing for indigenous people. Supply was an issue, but so was discrimination. We decided to take care of our own. That goal has led us on a journey that now includes so much more than just a roof over the heads of our tenants. We are giving opportunities back to the indigenous community to create jobs, to create wealth and to create a sense of ownership.
We focus on the importance of each staff member as an integral part of this team: first nations, Métis, non-native and visible minorities. We have also created community partnerships to better the broader Regina community. Together we believe we can provide safe, affordable, self-sustained housing to all those in need.
As of April 2020, Namerind Housing Corporation serves as the community entity for the Government of Canada's Reaching Home homelessness strategy in Regina. We are responsible for both funding streams: the designated communities stream and the indigenous homelessness funding stream.
As a community entity, Namerind is administering more than $5.6 million in Reaching Home funds during the 2020-21 year to support vulnerable Regina populations in gaining and maintaining safe, stable and affordable housing. Namerind Housing, as the Reaching Home community entity, works closely with the Regina homelessness community advisory board. This is out of necessity—79% of Regina's homeless people identify as indigenous.
The indigenous caucus of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association represents the interests of more than 100 indigenous-led or indigenous-serving housing and service providers from across Canada. In 2018, with funding from Indigenous Services Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the indigenous caucus of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association undertook a study on the state of indigenous housing providers in urban, rural and northern communities.
Its recommendations stand. Virtually every action still waits for a response. I would be glad to provide that to the members of this committee following the meeting.
The “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” report concludes that a strategy is required over and above the national housing strategy already announced in November 2017, and it must include the following key actions: create a “for indigenous, by indigenous” national housing centre; increase the stable, safe, affordable supply of housing by 73,000 units across Canada; increase support for tenants' well-being and long-term success with wraparound services; accelerate action on indigenous homelessness; and put a focus on northern housing.
Those of you who heard me here in June will know that I am a passionate advocate for combining housing for indigenous people with wraparound services. There are no indigenous people who are not affected by the fallout from the residential school system. We need you to be our partner.
Those of you who heard me in June will also know it's colder now in Regina and in Canada's north. It is no fun being homeless in a Regina winter. There is not a thing I can think of that makes this approaching winter a wee bit better than last year for homeless indigenous people in Regina. That's not acceptable.
In June, I identified an opportunity for us to purchase a motel in downtown Regina for $3 million that could be repurposed as housing for homeless indigenous people, with a focus on getting elders and young moms with kids out of the shelter lineups. I'm busy filling out forms and expect to have an application into CMHC's rapid housing initiative. Sometimes the biggest challenge is in finding out where the money is.
I want to thank you again for inviting me here today, and I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.