Regional organizations are partnering together and committing to build new, affordable housing units in First Nation communities across northwestern Ontario – to help address social and economic barriers in the region – including chronic homelessness.

The Kenora District Services Board, Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board and Grand Council Treaty #3 have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to improve housing and education programming across the Treaty #3 territory.

“The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding is a significant step for all organizations because it supports the Nation’s inherent right to healthy and thriving communities, while implementing our traditional laws,” explains Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh.

“Treaty #3’s vision is to develop a more holistic approach towards addressing homelessness and housing barriers while taking into consideration not only social values, but also the cultural and economic needs of the Anishinaabe Nation.”

The new partners explain that priority areas of the agreement include developing and improving infrastructure, exploring new financing and funding options, improving communication and participation between the organizations, identifying where social services play a role in barriers to affordable housing – and establishing goals to address these factors.

“Through the Memorandum of Understanding, we are committing to meaningful relations and partnership that will work to improve the well-being of our communities and work for the betterment of all who live in the Territory,” explains Chair of the KDSB, Barry Baltessen.

“Today’s event supports the KDSB’s vision to improve the lives of families through housing, early learning and care, paramedic and social services by bringing together our municipalities and first nation communities.”

Overall, Grand Council Treaty #3 says their communities continue to face many housing pressures, including a lack of affordable housing, homelessness and inadequate housing conditions.

They say these pressures, along with the child welfare system, can lead to increased rates of mental health concerns and suicide – and contributes to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls epidemic.