The Fort Frances Homeless Committee received its largest donation to date in support of opening an “Out of the Cold” shelter here–and it has the 10 First Nations of the southern Treaty #3 to thank.
The committee received word of a $25,000 donation in the days following the “Longest Night of the Year” homeless sleep-out event held Oct. 12-13 on the 200 block of Scott Street.
Weechi-it-te-win was instrumental in making the gravity of the issue of homelessness known at a meeting with the chiefs of the 10 First Nation communities.
The chiefs of the area First Nations made this donation in support of those experiencing homelessness in the district and allowing the homeless committee to achieve the goal of opening an “Out of the Cold” shelter this winter.
The “Longest Night of the Year” event raised just shy of $18,000 toward opening a shelter.
This latest donation places the homeless committee just $12,000 short of its goal of $55,000.
The donations are going directly toward shelter costs, the bulk of which stem from staffing the shelter.
This will allow the shelter to be opened three nights per week to begin, with the committee’s goal of adding more nights for this winter and eventually establishing a permanent shelter solution in the future.
“We are very grateful to have the support of these communities in establishing a shelter and excited to have this partnership,” said Jamie Petrin, co-chair of the Fort Frances Homeless Committee.
The communities that have offered their support include Lac La Croix, Seine River, Nigigoonsiminikaaning, Couchiching, Mitaanjigamiing, Naicatchewenin, Rainy River First Nations, Big Grassy, Big Island, and Onigaming.
“We are all impacted by the issue of homelessness in this district,” said Laurie Rose, executive director for Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.
“People need to have a safe place to sleep in order to become well and active members of our community,” she stressed.
Rose also would like to see the government take action to help create more rentals and housing in the area.
“Really, we are doing whatever we can to assist families but there’s nothing here for rent,” she noted.
“The government needs to step up, too, because they have an obligation to all their people.”
Rose would like to remind people that those who are homeless often are regular working-class people.
“There is a misconception,” she remarked. “It’s not drug addicts and the dregs of society here, we’re talking about working poor [who] cannot afford to live here.”
And with winter approaching, those without proper shelter could face serious health risks.
“If we don’t [have the shelter], people are going to die,” Rose warned. “Crime is up and they need a safe place to be.”
Not stopping at a donation, the 10 area First Nation communities also are offering a challenge to the business community of the Rainy River District.
The challenge is for businesses across the district to make up the $12,000 to open the shelter.
In particular, Nigigoonsiminikaaning Chief Will Windigo would like to see New Gold come forward with a donation.
“My personal opinion is that when the mining . . . started happening, it seemed like it drove up a lot of rental [prices] . . . and put a lot of people out on the streets,” he said.