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Darlene Chevrier was working as an administrator and dispatcher when she was offered the Director of Housing job at Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec over ten years ago. Her prior management and administrative experience and training were helpful in the job, but at the time, she really knew very little about housing. In 2016 she was afforded an opportunity to enroll in the Housing Management Program at CÉGEP Garneau. One of the first to participate in that program, she found it a challenge, but with the help and encouragement of her instructors and classmates, she successfully completed the program.
Says Chevrier, “When you go into housing, you definitely need education to succeed and the courses available now through the FNHPA fill that void. The FNHPA Program is designed in such a way that you can fill in those voids for the administrative and managerial housing-specific needs. Having both the technical and managerial skills are key to success in a housing role”.
Her experience and education background allowed Chevrier to apply for certification through FNHPA by way of the PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition) method. When she first saw the material outlining how a PLAR application needed to be compiled, she became overwhelmed. It appeared that a lot of time and effort would be required to get it all pulled together. “Once I was instructed on how to complete the requirements”, said Chevrier, “it was not that difficult, as I was able to use the course outline from CÉGEP Garneau, my resume and job description”.
Timiskaming First Nation is an Algonquin community in north-western Québec with approximately 650 on-reserve, and a total of 2660 registered members. There are 222 homes, and of that Chevrier is directly responsible for 85 band-owned and Article 95 homes (the rest are private, homeowners are responsible for their own maintenance, but Chevrier helps them out when needed).
When asked why she pursued the FNHP designation, Chevrier cited a few reasons. She wanted another notch on her belt – an accomplishment. She wanted recognition (she even let her CMHC advisor know that she achieved the designation). But most importantly, she wanted to demonstrate clearly that she has the knowledge, experience and education needed to do her job as Director of Housing. Said Chevrier, “When new people come in, I can now demonstrate that I know what I’m doing and that I know what I’m talking about”.
Chevrier was unaware that the First Nations Housing Professionals Association (FNHPA) had alerted her Chief and Council and the General Director to her accomplishment and was both surprised and humbled when the Chief congratulated her, and then included the announcement about her achievement in the community newsletter.
Moving forward, Chevrier believes the FNHP Program has the potential to have a significant impact on housing in First Nation communities throughout the country. “The designation is still new, and not everyone knows about it”, she noted. But if her experience tells you anything, it’s that Chevrier is a true believer in the FNHP Program. There is little doubt that she’ll be encouraging many of her peers in other communities to follow in her footsteps.