Bringing financial literacy to Indigenous community housing residents

Georgian Bay Native Women’s Association (GBNWA) is a non-profit organization responsible for the Midland and Penetanguishene area of Ontario. Since 1989, it has aimed to preserve and promote Anishinaabe culture, language and heritage. The organization offers 22 different programs to all Indigenous people – not just women – from childcare, prenatal support and women’s health to housing, mental health and addictions support.

Ryan St. Amant oversees the housing program at GBNWA, which offers subsidized housing to tenants for up to three years. He signed up to run the Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples financial literacy program from ABC Life Literacy Canada because he thought it would be a good fit for the tenants in GBNWA’s housing.

“I thought it would make sense to share financial advice with the community, especially since we are seeing more homelessness around Midland and Penatang,” he says.

Money Matters is a free introductory financial literacy program for adult learners. Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples contains the same core themes as the original Money Matters program but also includes additional information and design elements to reflect the realities of Indigenous communities in Canada.

Money Matters was developed with support of founding sponsor TD Bank Group through its corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment. GBNWA held two workshops this past summer on Banking Basics and Spending Plans. They also had a TD volunteer come in to facilitate each of the workshops.

“The workshops were very informative and the TD volunteer did a great job speaking at their level and in a way they could understand the financial concepts,” he says. “Everyone had a positive outlook during the workshop and were eager to learn more.”

St. Amant says the workshops were beneficial and informative, and many participants walked away with valuable tips that they could apply immediately. For example, many of them were doing cash advances on a credit card but didn’t realize that there was no grace period and that interest was getting charged right away. They also learned a lot about building credit and how it relates to getting a mortgage.

“One of the participants had sold a house and was living off the cash from the sale, so she wasn’t using credit,” says St. Amant. “As a result, she hasn’t been building up a credit score in the past several years and now it’s hard for her to get a mortgage to buy another house.”

GBNWA plans to run two additional workshops in the near future. St. Amant believes that financial education is vital to the Indigenous community.

“As an Indigenous person myself, I felt that growing up we didn’t have a lot of information with regards to the bank and how it could help us. Having someone from the bank come in and talk to us directly has been very beneficial and helpful.”

To learn more about Money Matters, visit abcmoneymatters.ca.