Community Spotlight: NiGiNaN Housing Ventures

NiGiNaN Housing Ventures is an Indigenous-led registered non-profit charity formed to address particular housing needs of people living in Edmonton. They are dedicated to providing supportive affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families 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 individuals.

We talked to Arsan Buffin, Site Manager for NiGiNaN developments Ambrose Place, McArthur Place, and Omamoo Wango Gamik, about NiGiNaN’s mission and their impact on the community.


Tell us about NiGiNaN Housing Ventures and your role there.

NiGiNaN Housing Ventures is an Indigenous-led not-for-profit organization whose core focus is housing the hardest to house. We provide a home that comes with caring staff, food security, and of course a community for anyone to feel welcome into. NiGiNaN operates 4 different sites that house close to 300 individuals that range from people accessing our Indigenous-led emergency shelter space, to one our permanent supportive housing sites, to our independent living site which has a focus on family reunification and establishing sober living. Between these sites comes the NiGiNaN approach of being relational and really decolonizing what the landlord-tenancy act is.

I am a Site Manager for Ambrose Place, McArthur Place, and Omamoo Wango Gamik. I am a support to staff at the sites should they need assistance with navigating the needs of the many tenants, along with always maintaining relationships with the residents so that the residents know they can come to me should they have concerns. Ultimately my goal is to keep people housed, and to work with the staff at the sites to ensure our relationship is ongoing.


Why is it important to provide culturally relevant support for people as they access housing and also start to improve their holistic wellbeing? What are the outcomes of providing this kind of support?

NiGiNaN operates with a mentality that we want our people to take care of our people. We want our people showcasing what it looks like to house our own. Many of our tenants find community at our sites, and really get that sense of home. It’s through culture and using ceremony that we can achieve these things. As an Indigenous person who is removed or displaced from your culture, it can be a challenge to find that sense of being once again. Within NiGiNaN we really aim to help the people we house to find this again through ceremony. At the sites we often have pipe ceremonies and feasts to encourage community. I think it’s really powerful that when a tenant reaches a palliative time they wish to remain at our sites and want us to provide the end-of-life care. I think that represents a lot of the outcomes that we aim to create through our relational approach.


How does Indigenous leadership in community resources provide empowered programming impact for everyone in the community?

Perspective goes hand-in-hand with lived experience. With this background in leadership, the understanding of learning how to “meet people where they’re at” carries a lot of weight and translates to being able to develop housing programs that can be successful with keeping people housed.


What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth experiencing crisis and/or housing instability?

That housing people is the easy part. It’s keeping them there is where the real work begins. They need the life skills to manage a living space, need to learn how to budget, understand the landlord/tenant act, all while navigating trauma, mental health challenges, and addictions. They need ongoing support, and guidance to navigate all of the above.

Young people have a very small timeframe to access youth-specific resources before they age out and become one of thousands. I’ve seen this happen many times when I was working with young people. This time is so valuable to try to set them up with success, but often youth-serving agencies only have hours each week to create real change. I think this is a huge issue. We need to develop a way to be positive influencers for the young people, and the way to achieve this is to spend more time with them.