Interview of Angus Palmer, General Manager of Wigwamen Incorporated

This, this is just like a – a phenomenal opportunity. We’ve been in existence now for 42 years. We are Ontario’s oldest and largest urban Aboriginal non-profit housing provider. And in 42 years we’ve managed to develop – I guess about 510 units. And that’s good, except that we have a waiting list of people who are in desperate need for affordable housing, which numbers – today would number about six hundred and fifty families.

For us, the chance to acquire a hundred and forty-five unit building in a brand new community – it’s a beautiful, beautiful community – and offer a good number of those units to members of the Aboriginal community – it’s a great opportunity; we’re really excited about it.

This is going to be an opportunity to have a community which has not only people who are employed, who are well off, who are comfortably middle class and beyond, but it will be a chance to have a community where you have people who are less fortunate and whose children will grow up in an environment which is radically different than they’re currently growing up. And that’s a positive thing. It’s going to make a difference in their lives. So, yeah, it’s very exciting.

Partnerships are something that we identified really early on as being important for this development. It was a competitive process – it certainly wasn’t a slam dunk that Wigwamen would be selected as one of the two non-profits, and it was important to us to be able to present credible partners. And we were fortunate enough to partner with the Ontario March of Dimes, which has been at the forefront of the disability movement for the past fifty years.

We’ve got thirty-one fully accessible units. That alone – to have thirty-one units out of 145 that are fully accessible – you don’t get that every day. And when you get it, you don’t get it in downtown Toronto.

The other partner that we have is a small agency – I think it’s fair to say that – they have a staff, actually, which is larger than ours – it’s been in existence since 1972 and it’s called Accommodation, Information and Support. And they provide supportive housing for clients of theirs who have mental health challenges.

One of the neat things is that what’s been insisted upon is that some of the units be set aside for carded athletes, so in our building I think we’re going to have about 15 carded athletes, which is neat, right – that’s pretty neat. These are people who are in the beginning of their careers, they’re getting a stipend probably from Sports Canada, it’s not a lot of money, they need a place to train – we’ve got great facilities here – and in the rest of the city for that matter – places like the aquatic centre out in Scarborough. So they need a place to train, they’ve got limited incomes – here’s an opportunity for them to live close to where the facilities are, and have affordable rents.

End of transcript.

Click to go back.