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Tawaak Housing Association

Aboriginal Support beyond shelter

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6175 Lady Hammond Road, 455-2900

tawaakhousing.org.

How to give: Contact Ida Vincent, the director of tenant relations at 455-2900, or via the website.

Brian Dezagiacomo takes care of over 140 Aboriginal individuals and families, every day, every week, every year. Dezagiacomo is the executive director of the Tawaak Housing Association, a non-profit charitable organization that provides housing in Halifax, Dartmouth, Sydney, Truro, Bridgewater, Liverpool and Antigonish, via 54 properties and 149 rental units.

"Our objective is to provide affordable, suitable and safe accommodations for aboriginal people of low to moderate incomes living off the reserve," says Dezagiacomo, who is as enthusiastic now as he was when he started the job in 1995. "I see this organization as doing something critical. We're fulfilling a social need for people, and when we see the positive results and how lives are changed, it is an inspiration."

Tawaak provides various programs for helping people find living accommodations. They include apartments for singles and families as well as supportive housing programs for people who are homeless or not able to access socially assisted housing programs. The latter program also includes helping out with education, substance abuse and employment problems.

The staff at Tawaak see people across the spectrum of needs and economic situation. "We don't just provide shelter for them," points out Dezagiacomo. "We also have a social function and help provide a continuum of support, which leads to independent living."

Dezagiacomo is a former journalist and radio announcer who worked at Halifax's CJCH before he moved to Sydney, where he began to work in communications with the native communities based there. He soon moved on to media relations in government before he went back to working with aboriginal communities.

"Providing [homes] to those who normally may not have access to socially assisted housing is of paramount importance because many people would not have access to it," says Dezagiacomo. He points out there are specific socio-cultural issues and values that need to be addressed when dealing with the aboriginal community. "Because this is an aboriginal association, we provide culturally appropriate programs. This helps people feel a strong sense of community, and I think that is of primary importance."

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