By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Garden River’s Carrie Zeppa delivered a presentation on the Importance of Tenant Liaison along with Lisa McCormick, from Batchewana, at the 2017 First Nations Housing Conference in Thunder Bay.
“The key to successful tenancy is education with your tenants,” says Zeppa, Garden River’s tenant relations officer. “And having a tenant relations officer person in your First Nation to help develop that rapport and trust with your tenants and also with management and Chief and council.”
Zeppa says the tenant relations officers are the first point of contact for any concerns or issues by the tenants.
“We are the first point of contact, so we advocate on their behalf, not only with management but also [as] their voice to Chief and council,” Zeppa says. “And we have the support of Chief and council, which allows us to administer our housing policies and procedures.”
McCormick says housing is a “huge investment” in a First Nation community. She and Zeppa worked together on the presentation because their offices are located about 10 minutes apart. Garden River and Batchewana’s Rankin Reserve community are located next to Sault Ste. Marie.
“If we are not taking care of them, it’s just wasting money and time and resources of everybody in the community,” McCormick says. “It hurts the community as a whole.”
Zeppa says her community has also been providing band employees with the option of having their rent or mortgage payments deducted directly from their pay.
“We haven’t had much resistance in our community with that approach,” Zeppa says. “And it also applies with our contractors as well.”
Zeppa and McCormick delivered their presentation on the third day of the First Nations Housing Conference, which was held from Feb. 7-9 at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.
In addition to the Builder’s Challenge with TV and radio personality Jon Eakes and a trade show on the second day, the annual gathering also featured 14 other presentations on a variety of topics, including Amber’s Fire Safety Campaign Overview and Fire Safety Panel Discussion, Housing Policy Toolkit Project, Fire Code Compliance and Basic Home Fire Safety, Enforcing Housing Policy and Home Maintenance.
Josh Hardy, Deputy Fire Chief with Red Rock Indian Band, spoke about fire safety during the Amber’s Fire Safety Campaign Overview and Fire Safety Panel Discussion.
“Over the last 15 years, we haven’t had any real calls aside from some chimney fires,” Hardy says. “So some of our proactive measures are helping out with that. We don’t have a school on our reserve…so most of our education is hands-on. When we are out with the truck we encourage all the kids and people to come up to the truck in our practices and we show them the truck and have quick talks with them about all our fire safety and concerns.”
Hardy says the community also has a fire prevention officer.
“He encourages us to go out into the community and make sure all the fire extinguishers are up to date and the smoke detectors are in working order,” Hardy says.
Hardy added that the community also has a junior fire program for youth in the community.
“We give them the opportunity to come into the fire hall and join our meetings and all our practices,” Hardy says. “In return, they can get their First Aid certificates and all of their fire safety training. And they can get their community hours that they need to graduate.”