There are Aboriginal people who seek help in trying to rebuild their lives but who consistently fall through the cracks of the system. They frequently approach organizations for support and assistance in crisis/at risk and/or transition situations. Due to a variety of circumstances, they find themselves on their own without financial resources, often without accommodation, and generally lacking adequate support. Although in search of trying to build a better life, many of these Aboriginal people have no choice but to return to an unsafe or unhealthy environment. Without alternative options, Aboriginal people who do go back usually return to their previous lifestyle or conditions. Those who simply have no options become at risk of homelessness, may lose custody of their children, or end up on the street.
For Aboriginal people who require accommodation, various restrictions impede their access and use. In general, accommodation is emergency or short-term in nature, and there is no alternative that is specifically geared to the unique needs of Aboriginal people. Local Aboriginal organizations try to assist and make referrals as best as they can, but for the most part help is severely inadequate. Aboriginal people need appropriate levels and types of support through their transition in rebuilding their lives. For instance, they need aftercare in empowering themselves, obtaining lodging, continuing their emotional/spiritual healing, as well as in re-adjusting socially and becoming more economically independent.
Homelessness, and in particular Aboriginal homelessness, is a national problem. However, in Brant/Brantford, the situation is particularly acute. While the Aboriginal population accounts for only 3-5% of the total population of Brant/Brantford, it disproportionately accounts for 26% of the homeless population, significantly more than in other major Ontario cities. Additionally, the Aboriginal population of Brant/Brantford accounts for 25% of those on waiting lists for subsidized housing. Many of those most at risk are single parent families.
Further exacerbating the situation is Brant/Brantford's proximity to several large Reserves. As noted in a 2003 "Brant/Brantford Affordable Housing Strategy Demand and Supply Analysis Report", many Aboriginal persons experiencing housing difficulties on Reserve migrate to the City of Brantford in search of housing and support services. This in-migration places a strain on the already inadequate local affordable housing supply.. Emphasis needs to be placed on the creation of affordable units for this segment of the population, mainly because many are in severe need of adequate shelter."
Except for the housing units currently operated by BNH, there are no Aboriginal-specific shelters, transitional homes, temporary homes, affordable or supportive/supported homes in Brant/Brantford, and there is an overall extreme shortage of emergency shelters and temporary housing in general. Existing mainstream facilities are over-capacity, with waiting lists, and most have various restrictions to access which often constitute barriers to Aboriginal persons in need. Even if they could access these mainstream facilities, Aboriginal persons are often hesitant to do so because they "lack cultural appropriateness, sensitivity, and understanding of Aboriginal people's distinct needs." These distinct needs arise in part from the fact that compared to the provincial average, Aboriginal populations have:
Despite this grim picture, it has been demonstrated over and over again that Aboriginal people are willing to use facilities and services designed, developed, and delivered specifically for Aboriginal people by Aboriginal people, should they be available. Clearly there is an urgent need for such facilities and services in Brant/Brantford in the form of affordable housing, transitional housing, and culture-based programming. A Community Advisory Board report entitled On Homeless Issues: Brant/Brantford issued in February 2004 confirms this, citing the necessity of developing "Aboriginal specific transitional housing", "culturally sensitive services for the Aboriginal population", and "affordable Native housing and services run by Natives."
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