New long-term housing in Winnipeg’s North End to heal families

Broken glass covers the steps, and wood boards cover the windows at a vacant yellow building on Mountain Avenue in Winnipeg. Despite the appearance now, this is set to be a healing space for families.

Kalen Taylor and her team from Purpose Construction is just waiting for building permits to start swinging their hammers.

“We’re going to have eight bedrooms total, along with a communal space which is one of the pieces of feedback we really heard clearly from the community,” said Taylor.

Broken glass covers the steps of 573 Mountain Avenue. The space is set to house families separated by the welfare system./Michelle Karlenzig.

The old nail salon is planned to house families that have been separated by the child welfare system. It was bought by Raise the Roof, a non-profit from Toronto.

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The organization has done similar projects in Ontario, but this is the first of its kind in Winnipeg.

“We just bought this one off the market, because it was perfect for what we needed,” said Leslie Bellingham, director of partnerships at Raise the Roof.

Bellingham says the space can provide a backyard where families can grow gardens and gather on the main floor.

Kalen Taylor, executive director at Purpose Construction, sits on the steps of the main floor to a vacant building on March 23, 2022 waiting to start construction for long-term housing./Michelle Karlenzig.

After construction wraps up, local Indigenous-led organizations like Fearless R2W and North End Resource Centre will be in charge of finding families to live here.

Chairperson Michael Redhead Champagne says he hopes projects like this one are the first of many.

“We want to make sure that the folks that are re-unifying and the young people that are aging out of care have the necessary things that they need to be successful, said Champagne. “We want them to have every available opportunity like anybody would have to be successful and healthy in their lives.”

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Taylor says their team of 40 trades people have an extra connection to this project. Purpose Construction aims to break employment barriers facing marginalized groups such as queer people, those formerly incarcerated, and refugees.

“We’ve got people on our staff that have been waiting years for affordable housing, so the feeling that we, through our work, are increasing the access to affordable housing in the city is massive.”

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