The Gathering Place/Mawacihitowin Otah, a local community space for Edmonton’s homeless population, is closing its doors after a group of local business owners and the Fort Road Business Association appealed NiGiNan’s permit allowing operation in the former Transit Hotel.
“We are deeply saddened to temporarily close down the Gathering Place. It’s our goal to limit the disruption to these crucial services, especially with winter just around the corner,” said Carola Cunningham, CEO of NiGiNan Housing Ventures. “NiGiNan Housing Ventures strives to build positive relationships with our neighbours in any community we develop low income housing or provide services. We have a proven track record with what we’ve done in McCauley with Ambrose Place - unfortunately in this case, we were not provided the opportunity.”
NiGiNan was approved for a City of Edmonton restaurant permit, as advised by the planning department, to run the Gathering Place in the old restaurant space of the Transit Hotel. Letters were soon sent out to community members and business owners in regards to the permit. At that time, the Fort Road Business Association along with a few local business owners hired a lawyer and brought NiGiNan to the appeal board. NiGiNan’s permit was revoked as of September 19, 2019.
“It’s our priority to work with our partners and the community to find a space to continue offering the services provided by the Gathering Place,” said Dave Ward, Executive Director of NiGiNan Housing Ventures. “What we’ve learned through our work with Ambrose Place and our other housing projects is that patience and compassion goes a long way. Our model is working - we provide emotional, spiritual, physical and mental support in a culturally sensitive environment. We are contributing to a stronger and healthier Edmonton community everyday.”
The Gathering Place opened up in the former Transit Hotel in November 2017 to provide people experiencing homeless a place to connect with loved ones, have a hot meal or just take a break from the constant battle of surviving on the streets. In August 2019, NiGiNan surveyed the community members accessing the Gathering Place and found that out of 579 people queried, only 105 people were experiencing homelessness. The remaining 474 people were considered working poor - Edmontonians who were unable to afford both food and rent. Many of the patrons were single mothers with children stopping in for breakfast before heading to school.
NiGiNan Housing Ventures is a registered non-profit charity formed to address particular housing needs and requirements of primarily Indigenous people living in Edmonton. NiGiNan is dedicated to providing affordable housing and permanent supportive housing opportunities for individuals and families of native ancestry, who have not been successfully served by any other organization in Edmonton.
NiGiNan's first development, Ambrose Place is one of the most successful programs and housing complexes for Edmonton's formerly hardest to house Indigenous persons.