Perspectives on the Housing First Program with Indigenous Participants

In the summer of 2010, Homeward Trust Edmonton (HTE) proposed to explore their Housing First Support Program delivery to Aboriginal people. The project was to be a strengths-based qualitative research project that would assess the successes of the program, as well as identify gaps in services, and/or challenges in service delivery for Aboriginal peoples. In July of 2011, the Blue Quills First Nations College - Research Team (BQFNC-RT) submitted two reports – the attached thematic document and an “Interactive Text” – a 35-minute play rooted in the voices of the people interviewed for the assessment. The Perspectives on the Housing First Program with Indigenous Participants report and the Interactive Text grew out of an Indigenous Research Methodology that focuses on ceremony and stories as the foundation of Aboriginal epistemology. Ceremony generates space for making enquiries and is essential to gaining knowledge through the sharing of stories and experiences through Circle Process. HTE and BQFNC wishes to honor the individuals who agreed to be interviewed, as well as the BQFNC and Housing First teams for their dedication and acceptance to the project. Therefore, in the spirit of reciprocity and friendship, we present their stories and share our teachings. Aboriginal people comprise only 5% of the Edmonton population, yet they account for almost 40% of the city’s homeless population. Homelessness in the Aboriginal community is complex and multidimensional; the social determinants that contribute to homelessness such as poverty, addiction, mental health, and social justice issues are well-documented. Existing models of housing support services that combine intervention with the provision of safe, affordable, and appropriate housing often do not adequately deal with core needs associated with the negative consequences of colonization, including the intergenerational trauma from Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and other hallmarks of systemic marginalization and oppression of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Housing First model, due to its client-centred and harm reduction approaches, is evolving towards adoption of a decolonization process in the way it is delivered. HTE provides training on indigenous culture, history, colonization and decolonization to staff in funded agencies and throughout the sector.

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