Atlohsa Family Healing Services says the fire at the indigenous-run winter shelter is “devastating” and leaves them with many unanswered questions about the future of the site.
A fire at the old River Road golf course in East London on Sunday morning has been deemed suspicious by London police.
The fire caused approximately $ 1 million in damage to the clubhouse, which was to be part of the city’s winter response to the homeless, and River Road was used specifically to serve up to 30 Native Americans.
Although the trailers marked for the initiative were not damaged by the fire, Atlohsa, the organization that will be in charge of executing the indigenous response, said there are many questions about whether the site is still usable and whether it is safe to operate.
“It was not felt a coincidence that this happened two days after we publicly announced our support for this location and its use,” said Andrea Jibb, director of community planning for Atlohsa Family Healing Services.
“We have some safety concerns, I would say, in case it is a suspicious fire, is it safe to operate out of this location? And even if it is, we will have a reminder with a large burning building that they potentially didn’t want us there.” .
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Atlohsa Family Healing Services is a non-profit, charitable organization focused on strengthening the community through indigenous-led programs and services that offer holistic healing and wellness.
Jibb said they looked forward to operating the golf course because it would allow them to use the land to help people reconnect with their culture and that the remoteness of the place was something that would help.
If the site on River Road is no longer viable, Jibb said they are working with the city to find a similar option that has access to the land. Right now, he said they are struggling to find other options that work.
She is asking anyone who knows of a property that could work for the winter shelter site to contact Atlohsa Family Healing Services.
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Atlohsa has continuously been advocating for more spaces for indigenous peoples who are homeless, as indigenous peoples make up at least 29 percent of homeless people in London, the organization reports.
Suspicion remains about the source of the fire, and Atlohsa CEO Raymond Deleary said this is the second suspected fire in an indigenous space in the last year.
“It is unlikely to be a coincidence that a property that has not been touched for at least the last year burned down two days after Atlohsa publicly announced it as a resource to support indigenous homelessness,” Deleary said.
—With files from Kelly Wang and Natalie Lovie of Global News
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