It took one weekend for a family to gain a roof over their head.
Since 2020, Unifor Local 27 in London, Ont., has partnered with the Oneida Nation of the Thames on the Imagine Build project to build affordable housing.
From Oct. 20 to 22, 10 volunteers from mainly the union’s Local 1106 and 27 participated in an “Imagine Blitz” fundraiser to help St. Thomas-based builder Doug Tarry Homes construct a house over a weekend. The Ontario Regional Council donated $4,000 for Unifor members to help with the project during an assigned timeslot.
“The Imagine Build project is everything reconciliation is meant to represent,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Samia Hashi.
“Housing is a human right. This is an opportunity for our union to reflect on the past and support the future with a solid solution to make life better for Indigenous people, brick-by-brick.”
Initially, the goal of Imagine Build was to construct four houses. Builders are currently working on the fourth one now, hoping to have it finished by Christmas next month.
Local 27 is working together with Chief Todd Cornelius, the Oneida Band Council, and community activists to build bridges between communities, through Mandi Fields – Brand Partnerships Specialist at Bell Media, who has taken the lead on the project – and the Imagine Build Foundation.
For the three-day blitz, there were 10 to 15 slots where individuals and organizations could donate $4,000 to help contribute to building the third home or provide support in other ways. The Unifor volunteers helped serve breakfast on the Friday morning.
“This house went up Friday morning and it was just a basement. I was serving coffee and I turned around and 20 minutes later and walls were up, it was amazing,” said Unifor Local 27 President Brian Chapman.
“They had about 60 guys in there with cranes and everything. It was like a little beehive going on. By Sunday afternoon at noon, they walked the individual through the house. They were finishing the trim and a bit of painting. The house was done.”
To date, Unifor has raised over $450,000 for Imagine Build, said Chapman.
He said the money the homeowners pay to live in the houses will go back into a pool, so Imagine Build can continue its vision of providing more roofs over heads and shortening the lengthy waitlist to affordable housing.
“I don’t know if you can ever make it right [for Indigenous communities], but it’s about making it better, going forward,” he said.
“Our hope is it bridges the mistrust, now that they see these houses being built and people moving in them.”