Burned Winnipeg building turned into housing for Indigenous youth

A recently renovated apartment building in Winnipeg’s North Point Douglas neighborhood has been transformed from an abandoned building into a place that about two dozen young Aboriginal people can now call home.

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

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

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

“This building comes from a place of love,” Brandy Kowal, the organization’s program manager, said at a grand opening ceremony on Friday.

“Everything we’ve done to do this and bring this place to life comes from our hearts.”

Now called Nenookaasiins, the block at 126 Alfred Ave. in Wininpeg opened on Friday. It will provide affordable housing for young people who are in the care of Child and Family Services or leaving care as young adults. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The building will now be called Nenookaasiins, which means “little hummingbird” in Anishinaabe.

Tatyanna Monkman-Hudson, 23, and her young daughter have been accessing services provided by Shawenim Abinoojii since leaving government care at age 21.

“It was a positive impact and they helped me so much. … When I left care they were very supportive and continue to be so,” she said during Friday’s event.

“They actually taught me how to be a strong leader.”

Nenookaasiins can house up to 24 young people in 18 apartments and has a cultural center where residents can access employment programs and other resources. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The project aims to reduce homelessness in the Aboriginal community. A recent survey found that less than a year after leaving FLS care, nearly two-thirds of young people were left homeless.

The building can accommodate up to 24 young people in 18 apartments and has a cultural center where residents can access employment programs and other resources. The young can live in the house for a few months or a few years, depending on their needs.

All three levels of government funded the renovation, Kowal said.

“With this support, we can bring our big ideas and create something like this and our young people are the ones who are going to benefit.”

Victoria Fisher, left, is the chief executive of Shawenim Abinoojii. Brandy Kowal, right, is a program manager with the organization. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

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

“We see so many children aging unsupported in so many different systems, and that will ensure that our families stay together, that they don’t fall into those systems,” Smith said.

Smith said that as an MP for the area, she had received many calls over the years about the burning block.

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

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