It was a historical day at Binche Whut’en as the Indigenous community near Fort St. James recently celebrated the completion of a new six-unit housing complex for Binche elders.
Elder Lucy Duncan began the afternoon celebration Thursday, August 12, with prayers followed by Jolene Prince cleansing the homes with smudge and singing a traditional welcome song.
The elders were welcomed to their homes overlooking Stuart Lake at 227 Mandine Dr by Chief Tracy Anatole and Binche Keyoh Bu Society president Joshua Hallman who wrapped them with a blanket and provided the keys to their new homes.
“We haven’t had housing built here for over 20 years,” Hallman said.
”It’s going to be pretty exciting for the elders to live there, and hopefully in the future, we’ll build more for elders too.”
Economic development officer Dave Birdi called it a heartwarming and bittersweet moment for sisters Veronica and Rose Campbell as well as Richard Austin.
All have experienced homelessness most of their lives.
“As they were wrapped in traditional blankets upon entering their new home, the Campbell sisters cried for joy and gratitude and felt Binche Whut’enne’s welcoming and blessings,” Birdi said.
Austin was also overwhelmed in tears as he stood in the living room of his new home.
The three one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units were furnished with sofas and coffee tables by the Binche Keyoh Bu Society.
They are also equipped with a wood pellet boiler heating system that Hallman said they hope to utilize in other future homes, noting the challenges and costs of obtaining firewood.
Ten new units hoped to be completed before the end of the year for single individuals and couples will also have the wood pellet boiler system installed and a solar system.
Building homes to eliminate homelessness and making housing affordable to everyone remains a key priority, Hallman and Birdi added.
“We are expanding at the end of the day, but we wanted to start off with success on the first couple of homes,” Hallman said, noting their aim was to improve their housing department.
“Our ultimate goal is to encourage people to come in and build their own homes and get a mortgage and stuff like that. It’s our ultimate goal to give people their independence and feel that like that they actually own their house.”
(Note: An earlier article published Thursday, July 1 incorrectly reported solar systems would be installed in the six new homes for elders)