Monday’s announcement that the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre’s shelter will soon close is making waves in the community. Since the news went public, other Halifax area shelters and aid organizations have spoken out about the need to prevent the loss.
"We're still reeling from news that the MNFC shelter will close its doors during the coldest months of the year,” tweeted Adsum for Women and Children on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, Out of the Cold employees also issued a press release saying they stand with the shelter case workers.
“MNFC management is choosing to close the only shelter dedicated to supporting unhoused urban Indigenous Peoples in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), and will cease providing essential shelter services in the community,” reads the statement, signed by OTC frontline staffers Campbell McClintock and Nicole Blinn. “As the most difficult months of winter approach, the loss of shelter services could have potentially deadly consequences.”
In addition to that, P.A.D.S. Community Network, the group of community members who volunteer at People’s Park, issued a statement.
“We understand that the MNFC Emergency Shelter was opened swiftly in response to a growing need and that the administration has struggled,” it says. “But we do not accept that administration is therefore exempt from responsibility to manage its affairs in a just, transparent and fully accountable way that recognizes their responsibility in maintaining space desperately needed by homeless and precariously housed Indigenous people..”
Much of the outcry was directed at the province, since the MNFC execs said that funding had been lost. But just after 1pm on Wednesday, Nova Scotia’s minister of L’nu affairs and community services sent out a press release saying the government had not cut funding to the shelter.
“I need to make this abundantly clear: our government has not pulled, stopped or denied funding to the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre emergency shelter,” reads the memo from Karla MacFarlane. “The centre has funding and will continue to receive funding from the Province for as long as they choose to remain a shelter operator. The Province approved $850,000 in funding to the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre for emergency shelter placements until May 31, 2022.”
MacFarlane’s statement also says the MNFC will get provincial funding for its new shelter on College Street. “Recently, we announced $1.6 million for the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre to operate the Diamond Bailey House. An additional $76,000 will be provided in the first year for start-up costs.”
The new Diamond Bailey Centre was originally supposed to open in January 2022 but has now been pushed until at least summer 2022. It also has over $2.8 million in federal funding from the Rapid Housing Initiative program.
The MNFC also has plans to build a new Friendship Centre, replacing the current one at 2158 Gottingen Street–where it’s been since 1984–with a brand new state-of-the-art building at 1940 Gottingen that was approved by regional council in 2017.
The details of the sale from HRM to the Centre were never made public, but the estimated value of the 1.2 acre property was $6.1 million. The new 70,000 square foot building, called Wije’winen, is expected to cost $50 to $60 million, according to reports from last year.
To date, there is no public timeline for the new Wije’winen Friendship Centre.