There is a new housing development for Indigenous youth transitioning from child welfare to adulthood. 

Shawenim Abinoojii Inc. (SAI), in Ojibwe meaning, 'love and nurture the child' provides support and resources to children and their families impacted by Child Welfare. SAI hosted a celebration on the opening of a building titled Nenookaasiins, or “Little Hummingbird” at 126 Alfred Avenue this past Friday.

"From my understanding, the building is just over 100 years old," says Jason Whitford, the CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg. "In November 2020, it was boarded up and impacted by arson. There were some broken windows and even individuals that were unsheltered using it as a shelter."

Whitford shares that he saw the building as an underutilized resource that had much potential. When it was originally built in the 1920s, it was a hotel for tourists to Winnipeg.  

"My work at End Homelessness Winnipeg now, one of the exercises that we do every two years is the street census. It takes a snapshot of the population that is unsheltered and precariously housed. Back in 2020, the City of Winnipeg in partnership with the federal government announced the rapid housing investment, seeking concepts and ideas on how to address the housing supply issue."

Whitford worked at SAI before he ended up in his current position, but both lend to helping people find housing. 

"One eligibility was to take a dilapidated building and to revitalize it. We wrote the proposal to see this property revitalized and transformed into a supportive resource for young people exiting child welfare." 

SAI purchased and renovated this formerly derelict building to offer 18 affordable apartments with transitional support for Indigenous youth in and from Child and Family Services care.

"The staff that operate on the main level are already settled and the suites themselves are move-in ready. I believe at the end of the month they will move young people in. They've done applications and identified the tenants that are coming in there."

Six units in the building have two bedrooms for young parents and the other 12 are one-bedroom suites.

"They're fully enclosed. You have your own washer, dryer, fridge,  stove, heating, and air conditioning, and it'll have 24 hours of supervision and supports for the young people that reside there."

Whitford says that when they initially envisioned the space it would offer transitional housing from anywhere between three months to three years. 

"It's sort of an evolution of programming. It's an extension of the support that SAI provides just the same way that your family would be there to support you as you finish high school, seek out your first job, or go to post-secondary education. What has happened with a lot of people in our community, those supports are far away or there's a disconnection because of child welfare."

The hope of this building and its support is to help Indigenous youth become independent. 

"Our people have always held solutions and abilities to care for own," says Whitford.