Strides being made on Labrador's north coast to address housing crisis

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Multi-unit dwelling in plans for Nain, says deputy minister

A new way of developing ideas to combat housing issues on Labrador's north coast is coming to fruition.

Isabella Pain, deputy minister for the Nunatsiavut Secretariat, says Nunatsiavut's Sustainable Community Initiative is working for the north coast. Pain gave a presentation on the SCI during the Expo Labrador Trade Show and Conference in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week.

That's according to Isabella Pain, Deputy Minister of the Nunatsiavut Secretariat for the Nunatsiavut Government (NG).

A Sustainable Community Initiative (SCI) — overseen by a joint management committee — to deal with a myriad of concerns on the north coast, commissioned a housing assessment study in 2012 to look at some of the complex housing needs (among other issues) in their communities. The study was in partnership with the provincial and federal governments.

Today, said Pain, they are on the brink of making some real strides on the housing front.

“Through the use of funds from the NG and some of the money from the Arctic Inspiration Prize, we are looking at building the first sustainable, multi-unit dwelling in Nain,” said Pain.

“We will design, build and monitor the dwelling, which we feel will help create new, affordable housing designs that are best suited to our communities.”

Pain noted the joint study found very unique characteristics in homes on the north coast that cause major issues, such as mould and foundation issues.

“The study found that 44 per cent of households cannot afford to heat their homes properly,” noted Pain. “This causes mould, which can be very dangerous for people's health.”

She added the “generic design” of the homes being built on the north coast also doesn't help.

“The homes are designed and built for more southern locations,” said Pain. “But with our changing climate conditions, (the study has found) that permafrost thaw causes the ground to shift and causes infrastructure damage. About 86 per cent of homes currently show signs of damage.”

She added some of the new homes are “failing” within 10 years of construction.

“We are facing a housing crisis and it is affecting people's lives,” she said.

'Positive program'

Another successful component of the SCI, said Pain, is the “Going Off, Growing Strong” program.

It is an initiative that sees at-risk youth paired with elders in the community of Nain, to learn how to hunt for wild game and contribute to the community freezer for use by elders.

“This youth harvester program supports mental health, and evaluation has shown a positive and meaningful impact on youth,” said Pain, noting a health professional from Nain noted that there “was not one male youth suicide” in the community in “almost a full calendar year” since the program was implemented a couple of years ago, as compared to seven suicides among male youth the year prior.

“This program is ensuring the long-term health and well-being of our communities,” said Pain, who said the program will soon be expanding into Hopedale.

She also noted the participants also learn many other traditional skills, such as cooking sessions using wild foods and building komatiks, and also participate in events such as movie nights.

“Graduates from the program go on to become 'junior harvesters' and actually become mentors for new youth joining the program,” said Pain, as she showed several pictures of smiling, busy youth taking part in various aspects of the program.

“These pictures can say so much more than I can about the positive influence this is having,” she smiled.

Organizations: NG, Sustainable Community Initiative, Nunatsiavut Secretariat for the Nunatsiavut Government

Geographic location: Nain, Labrador, Hopedale

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