WATCH: Native Women’s Shelter plans $7 million expansion

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal is about to undergo a major expansion, and they say it’s getting underway after signs of encouragement from the federal government.

The shelter’s executive director Nakuset says the expansion project will eventually provide the city’s first second-stage housing system for indigenous women and children.

Shelter organizers sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s office asking for $7 million in funding for their second-stage housing project, including specific floor plans. An identical letter was sent to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennet. Much of the budget would be used to renovate a building that has already been selected by the shelter.

Montreal has the largest first-generation urban indigenous population in the country, and Nakuset says the need for longer-term housing is urgent.

Right now, the Native Women’s Shelter provides only emergency housing that lasts about 3 months. After that, they have to find shelter someplace else, which can be a challenge without stable employment.

“There are different second-stage housing [solutions], but there are none for indigenous women,” says Nakuset, adding that many may not feel culturally comfortable in many existing spaces around Montreal.

The project’s $7 million budget has not yet been funded by the federal government, but Nakuset says that with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent words about reconciliation, they have hope that it will be approved.