CUMFI adds more housing
- | September 26, 2014
Shirley Isbister knows exactly what a family's most basic need is and she and her team at CUMFI Métis Local works hard every day to do just that. “You have to have a roof over your head before you can take care of anything else,” said Isbister as she introduced the most recent CUMFI house to the community.
Stewart House is a facility that will provide a specialized supportive housing program for Aboriginal women and their families who have HIV/AIDS. Named after Lorraine Stewart, a long time advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and services, the house provides stability for a mom and her children as she deals with her health. “This is a beautiful house with a big yard for the kids and they are well looked after,” said Isbister. This property makes it two houses and eleven apartment buildings for CUMFI. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy, the Clarence Campeau Development Fund and the City of Saskatoon all invested in the project.
Lorraine Stewart knows the needs of the community very well. Her son was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 and died a year later. At that time there was a lot of fear around AIDS. “We have come a long way but we have a long way to go. The stigma is still there and I am sure the more of us that get involved and prepare to take a stand, things will get even better,” said Stewart. She became a tireless advocate for people with HIV/AIDS and was a founder of People Living With Aids and has been its president for over a decade. “Having this house named after me is very humbling but there are thousands of people affected by HIV/AIDS but we only see a handful of them. The disease is not a death sentence anymore. I am so pleased we have gone so far. We did not have these services. Now we can help other families so they do not have to go through what we did.”
By opening supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS who need housing and may struggle with poverty, lack of support to access wellness services, and conflict with Child and Family Services, the Stewart House will be able provide housing services for families with complex behaviours and health needs.
CUMFI, with support from Persons Living with AIDS Network of Saskatchewan Inc. and the Westside Community Clinic, will provide case management to the families living in the homes with the goals of having them live well with HIV/AIDS, access necessary medical interventions, experience housing security, regain and maintain custody of children, and work towards greater independence. This program is a natural extension of CUMFI’s other programs and will have an impact on a very specific population of women who are homeless or at risk.
“We are honoured to dedicate this house to Lorraine, a strong Métis woman who has been so passionate about the cause and has done so much,” said Isbister. “What we have today is a good start. Our families are in dire need of housing and support. But we need to do more. You have visions, you just need to find the money.”