Being a housing manager is rewarding, but not for the faint-hearted. And for those working on reserve, it can be a lonely career path—something the First Nations Housing Professionals Association hopes to remedy. Since 2019, it has been working to professionalize this career path and offer its support to housing professionals across the country.
We recently sat down with Margaret Pfoh, who is Tsimshian from the Eagle Clan of the Gitga’at First Nation, to talk about her thoughts on Indigenous homelessness. Margaret joined the non-profit housing sector 25 years ago and has been the CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) for three years. She also sits on the Community Housing Transformation Centre board of directors. As we near the end of National Indigenous History Month, we wanted to share a few more of her observations with our readers in this edited transcript of our interview.
This month, the Centre’s newsletter pays tribute to National Indigenous Peoples Day, which occurs on June 21, the Summer Solstice. This year marks the 25th anniversary of its celebration in Canada. And June is also National Indigenous History Month. To mark the occasion, we would like to tip our hat to the Indigenous organizations that have entrusted us with their projects.
For Indigenous populations, the concept of homelessness is much broader than the simple lack of shelter—it encompasses the alienation inherent in three centuries of being uprooted from their cultures and communities.
When it comes to housing, Indigenous realities are often ignored or misunderstood in the western culture, even in advocacy programs like Rent Smart, which aims to train and empower tenants. The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary is reconciling the two worlds by adapting Rent Smart tenancy training to embrace Indigenous culture and values.
The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association has set ambitious goals in its plans to address Indigenous housing needs. With one-in-four Indigenous persons in Ontario living in poverty, affordable housing is seen as an important way to reduce stressors faced by so many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, both on- and off-reserve.