Criminal Activity the Major Social Impact on Housing, Announced at March Community Meeting
April 7, 2023
By Peetah Bastien, BT Communications
Photo Credit: Blaire Russell, BT Communications
Blood Tribe Housing department held a community meeting at the Kainai Multi-Purpose Building in Standoff, AB on Tuesday March 21, 2023. One of the main topics centered around criminal activity affecting housing maintenance in Blood Tribe housing units that have resulted in increased evictions, vacant, and abandoned homes. More than 100 community members, including 57 homeowners, attended the meeting.
The overall purpose of the community engagement was to provide valuable information on homeowner safety, housing maintenance, and statistical data by Housing staff, Emergency Services, Fire/EMS, Blood Tribe Social Development, and Kainaiwa Child Protection Services. The Blood Tribe Police Service and Public Works were unable to present at the meeting.
Blood Tribe Housing Director, Rachel Tailfeathers said, “We have the largest housing portfolio of any First Nation [in Canada],” The department employs five Housing Relations Officers that oversee 1,300 units on the Reserve and receive more than 400 calls per day. There are five maintenance workers that cover the same number of units. Tailfeathers reported that it costs between $60,000 to $100,000 to complete a restoration to ensure damaged units are livable for new families. It costs $300,000 to demolish a home that has been structurally damaged, Tailfeathers further explained.
Some houses have garbage piled in the basement which is one of the causes for severe structural damage resulting in eviction and demolition. The most common question the department receives is ‘Why are these houses boarded up?’ Extensive structural damage makes the houses unlivable and condemned which is connected to underlying social issues from addictions and crime. Tailfeathers said, “I know all the departments that are here are here to support and acknowledge the social issues that are happening.”
Blood Tribe Administration Department and Entity partnerships have grown over the years, and since 2014, the opioid crisis has called to action a multi-organization cooperative. The social issues require the involvement of BTSD and Child Protection with support from the Police Service to work in partnership to address the elements of crime, safety of children, and the tenant relations.
BTSD is 100 per cent funded by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) as such the department follows an application process, that once approved, allows for case workers to advocate on behalf of qualified individuals. BTSD Director, Arnold Fox said, “Our relationship is with the tenant; Blood Tribe Housing is the landlord.”
On the contamination of units Fox added, “You have seen the pictures that Rachel and Leslie Water Chief showed, on how much damage is done to some of these homes. So that’s a really big issue for Housing. Some of those houses are contaminated, it would be like stepping into a room full of poison.”
Fox mentioned grandparents are raising the children of our adult children due to drug use adding, “These are not our values,” referring to who we are as Blackfoot. Although BTSD provides short-term job training and encouragement to clients he said in closing, “You can lead a horse to water … but you can’t make a horse drink.”
When there is no other option because the house has been effectively destroyed and unhabitable by tenants, eviction is a last step that occurs. So far this year, there have been six evictions due to criminal activity, mostly drug trafficking. These are the tenants who struggle with personal issues that require a considerable amount of personal growth, rehabilitation, and community reconciliation.
In keeping with the cultural tradition of working as a community, Kainaiwa Child Protection presented on the issue of child safety. Assessors/Investigators Supervisor, Heather Tailfeathers spoke about the abilities and rights of Child Protection, in expressing the need to work with BTPS. Heather explained, “If there are children that are at risk and we are working with the BTPS we don’t need a warrant to go into that house, if there are children in there.” She expressed her concerns about the drugs, bootleggers, and the dogs. “If people want to go to Housing for counselling, they have to take a stick,” because many of our members do not own vehicles. She completed her presentation by reminding the attendees that the Blood Tribe has the most “kinship care homes” and as a result there are less of our children in foster care homes.
The next Blood Tribe Housing Community is scheduled for the fall of 2023, if you require further information, please call your Zone HRO.
BLOOD TRIBE HOUSING RELATIONS OFFICERS:
ROCHELLE WELLS, Standoff Townsite: 403-448-0267
CODY WELLS, Standoff Townsite: 403-360-2449
LESLIE WATER CHIEF,
Zones 1&2, Moses Lake Townsite: 403-382-5007
CORY SWEET GRASS,
Zones 3&4, Lever Townsite: 587-220-5337
ROSIE MANY GREY HORSES,
Zones 5&6, St Paul’s: 403-737-4389
Blood Tribe Housing Director, Rachel Tailfeathers presenting at the BT Housing Spring 2023 Community Meeting on March 21, 2023 in Standoff, Ab. (Photo: Blaire Russell)
Blood Tribe Housing Spring 2023 Community Meeting held on March 21, 2023 in Standoff, Ab. (Photo: Blaire Russell)
Blood Tribe Housing Relations Officer, Leslie Waterchief presenting at the BT Housing Spring 2023 Community Meeting on March 21, 2023 in Standoff, Ab. (Photo: Blaire Russell)
Kainai Child Protection Services, Heather Tailfeathers presenting at the BT Housing Spring 2023 Community Meeting on March 21, 2023 in Standoff, Ab. (Photo: Blaire Russell)
Blood Tribe Social Development Director, Arnold Fox presenting at the BT Housing Spring 2023 Community Meeting on March 21, 2023 in Standoff, Ab. (Photo: Blaire Russell)
Blood Tribe Housing Community Meeting Highlights – March 21, 2023