Main Street Project accepts that we have historically not always been strong allies in supporting the work of Indigenous organizations and we have, at times, not served Indigenous Peoples that use our services as well as we should have because of cultural ignorance. While we are not an Indigenous organization, and
do not aspire to be an Indigenous organization, we must do better at meeting the needs of Indigenous people that use our services and be a better support to Indigenous organizations. We embrace the opportunity for improving our services and programs to be more culturally appropriate, by training our staff, board and volunteers to be more culturally competent, and to support and work with Indigenous organizations in partnership. We have work to do to heal past wounds and right past wrongs. We shall deliberately engage in this process of Truth and Reconciliation in the coming five years, leaning into the dicult conversations, listening attentively so to hear and understand, and take intentional action to improve.
Too many Indigenous Peoples in our community experience homelessness. The best available data suggests that two-thirds of people experiencing homelessness in our community identify as Indigenous. The proportion is even higher amongst younger people experiencing homelessness. Many people are quick
to rightly point out that this is disproportionate to the overall population of our community. We believe that such an explanation only reinforces “otherness” — that somehow there is something wrong with Indigenous Peoples themselves for experiencing high rates of homelessness. Instead, we choose to intentionally view these higher rates of homelessness as proof of historical exclusion, stigma, discrimination, racism, and failed public policy. Blaming or pitying Indigenous Peoples for homelessness is wrong. We need to journey with people compassionately and non- judgmentally, promoting knowledge, experiences and resiliency, and creating pathways for wellness and connection to culture.
As an organization that is committed to harm reduction and preventing and ending homelessness, Jesse Thistle’s definition of Indigenous homelessness and its component parts will help shape our thinking and engagement in this space. We accept that Western definitions of homelessness do not fully describe the complexity of homelessness as it relates to colonial policies and practices, impacts and lived realities; that homelessness for many Indigenous Peoples is more than not having a safe place to call home. Collectively, too many Indigenous Peoples have experienced disconnection from land, family, culture, community and identity. Residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, practices within the child welfare system in Manitoba and Canadian public policy significantly contribute to homelessness amongst Indigenous Peoples.
MSP and its Indigenous Relations will further embrace and support reconciliation, decolonization, and anti-oppression are the following goals:
- Strengthen the role of Main Street Project as a support, resource and connection to Indigenous-led cultural supports and services
- Improve the feeling of cultural safety for Indigenous people that work at Main Street Project or use Main Street Project programs or services
- Support Indigenous businesses and service providers in the City of Winnipeg
- Collaborate meaningfully with Indigenous partners and community members in developing policies, practices and activities
- Actively seek to dismantle and diminish racism, misconceptions, homophobia and stereotypes against any person or group of persons
- Identify and work to remove all forms of oppression both internally at MSP and externally as they aect the community we serve
We are strengthening the role of Main Street Project as a support, resource and connection to Indigenous-led cultural supports and services
- Establishing a formal Lived Experience Circle to provide ongoing guidance and support
- Setting timelines and goals for the implementation of Truth & Reconciliation and Anti-Oppression Framework
- Creating an Ethical Space through seeking out and listening to diverse voices and perspectives
- Encouraging and supporting open communication between management, Board members, staff and volunteers through making time for questions and concerns and transparency on the processes taking place
- Practicing cultural humility to reduce biases in Main Street Project policies, practices and programs
- Integrating the relevant articles of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, and the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Actions in the organization
- Incorporating the relevant recommendations of the Final Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Main Street Project can improve the role the organization plays in supporting, resourcing and connecting to Indigenous-led cultural supports and services. Internally, we know there is work to do to review all of our programs and services, policies and procedures, Human Resources and volunteer engagement. We can improve the integration of Indigenous culture into our programs and services through the input, collaboration, guidance and implementation by Indigenous people. We can improve referrals to Indigenous-led organizations and partners outside of our organization when appropriate and desired by the person we are serving. We can collaborate better with Indigenous organizations and Indigenous leaders on matters such as advocacy, service planning, and government investment in our sector.
We also don’t know what we don’t know. It would
be inappropriate to think that we, a non-Indigenous organization, can flip a switch to suddenly Indigenize all of our programs and services. It is with public humility that we call upon our Indigenous partners, Elders present and emerging, Indigenous sta, Indigenous Board members, and people that are Indigenous that use our services to hold us accountable in this process of learning, listening, healing, amending our practices, and advancing Truth and Reconciliation. Formally, we are committed to establishing a Lived Experience Circle to provide ongoing guidance and support.
To also provide accountability, we commit to setting timelines and goals for the implementation of the Truth
& Reconciliation and Anti-Oppression Framework. Committing to timelines and goals will help us ensure that it is put into action. We will strive to make meaningful change in Truth & Reconciliation and anti-oppression by heeding the guidance from the Framework.
In addition to the Framework, another source of guidance for us will be the relevant articles of the United Nations Declaration of the Right of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action, and the recommendations from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report. While many of the articles are written for the State to act, we believe that articles that speak to the likes of self-determination and being free from discrimination can be embraced at Main Street Project, and we can be an ally in helping to ensure the other articles, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action are followed by government.
We will create an Ethical Space. It will be an intermediary between two knowledge systems; building a foundation of knowledge sharing. We will engage and be respectful to learn, listen and share, seeing Indigenous values, principles and practices as equal to Western approaches to knowledge.
We know this will be a new beginning in many respects, which will benefit from enhanced communication throughout our organization and with both the Indigenous community and broader community. We will benefit from communication that is open and patient; one that invites inquiry and scrutiny. We believe that the more transparent we can be on the processes taking place to improve our support, resource and connection to Indigenous-led cultural supports and services, the better.
We’ll improve the feeling of cultural safety for Indigenous people that work at Main Street Project or use Main Street Project programs or services
- Cultivating a safe space in which Indigenous community members may practice culture and ceremony such as smudging
- Educating Board members, sta and volunteers on cultural awareness, cultural safety and cultural humility
- Committing to non-violence and avoiding the involvement of law enforcement unless absolutely necessary
- Integrating Indigenous elements, led by Indigenous partners, artists and creators into Main Street Project settings such as murals, land acknowledgements, Seven Sacred Teachings and art, and supporting the creation of culturally adapted gathering places
- Working preventatively to help ensure Indigenous people can stay within their respective communities to receive supports
- Implementing a mentorship program led by Indigenous leadership, Elders and role models, to allow Indigenous community members to seek guidance and healing
Cultural safety, to us, means we will actively consider how social and historical contexts, as well as structural and interpersonal power imbalances shape the experience of receiving services from Main Street Project. Sta, volunteers and Board members need
to be self-reflective and self-aware with regard to position power and the impact this power has on Indigenous service users. The “safety” component of “cultural safety” is defined by the Indigenous people that receive services, not by Main Street Project that provides the service.
Cultivating a safe space is overdue at Main Street Project. Indigenous staff and service users, along with Indigenous community members, require a safe space to practice culture and ceremony. We will consult and engage further on which facilities to create the safe spaces within, and how those should be established, set up, and made available.
Cultural humility, to us, means we must humble ourselves as learners when it comes to understanding the experience of others. This is a life-long process of being self-reflective. Being successful at cultural humility also means Main Street Project needs to promote cultural awareness (understanding differences and commonalities between cultures), competency (attaining skills, knowledge and attitudes to engage in more effective and respectful ways), and sensitivity (recognizing the differences between cultures and the importance of these differences).
We renew our commitment to non-violence. We strive to create service environments that are free of physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and cultural violence, where verbal abuse does not occur. We aim to resolve conflict through non-violent means. We commit to using law enforcement only when absolutely necessary, recognizing that many conflicts can be de-escalated before reaching a stage where law enforcement may be required.
Main Street Project can improve the integration of Indigenous elements into our practices. We feel it is important for this to be led by Indigenous partners, artists and creators. We are open to transforming some of our facility settings through the likes of murals, land acknowledgements, Seven Sacred Teachings and Indigenous art. The creation of culturally adapted gathering spaces for Indigenous community members is something that we can facilitate occurring within our organization.
In addition to the work we are committed to doing within Main Street Project to improve feelings of cultural safety, we are committed to contributing to preventing the need of Main Street Project services in the first place. We know that some of the people we serve that are Indigenous would prefer and may be better served if they were able to stay in their home community to receive supports rather than journeying to Winnipeg to receive supports and services. We will work with our Indigenous partners to work on a model and approach to make this preventative work possible.
To further promote cultural safety, we will work with the Indigenous community to develop and implement a mentorship program. We believe this is best led by Indigenous leadership, Elders, and role models. The purpose of this would be for Indigenous people that use Main Street Project services, as well as Indigenous sta, the opportunity to seek guidance and healing, when necessary.
We’ll support Indigenous businesses and service providers in the City of Winnipeg
- Prioritizing purchasing from Indigenous business, artists, creators and Indigenous supplies for organizational needs
An organization of our size has a marginal amount of purchasing power. However, we can be more deliberate in our approach to purchasing supplies for the organization. Whenever prudent and possible, we will prioritize purchasing from Indigenous business, artists, creators and Indigenous supplies for our organizational needs.
4. Collaborate meaningfully with Indigenous partners and community members in developing policies, practices and activities
- Engaging with Indigenous community members, communities and leadership before any activity or programming affecting Indigenous people that use Main Street Project programs or services are implemented
- Connecting Indigenous people that use Main Street Project to culturally appropriate long- term healing services and workshops run by Indigenous people
- Increasing the participation and representation of Indigenous people on Main Street Project’s Board and all levels of staff
- Hiring Indigenous staff that speak Indigenous languages
- Recruiting peer support positions through non-computer means
- Decolonizing recruitment requirements whenever possible
- Holding regular meetings with the Indigenous Leadership Circle to guide implementation of the 5 year strategic plan
- Providing connection to Indigenous partners for land-based education to Indigenous people that use Main Street Project
- Connecting Indigenous people to Indigenous partners to oer culturally appropriate life skills programming
Meaningful collaboration, to us, means an intentional process and dedicated effort for Main Street Project to engage with the Indigenous community, Indigenous- led organizations, Indigenous staff, and Indigenous people that use our services. It is not about random touchdown points or one-way communication. We start with a shared understanding of intentions, and engage in meaningful dialogue to clarify those intentions.
From there, we co-develop action steps to follow in implementation. Those actions will produce outputs and outcomes. We believe that outcome examination is a collaborative process to incorporate dierent viewpoints to extract meaning from what is transpiring. This leads to reflection on what has and is occurring relative to stated intentions, intended activities and the outcomes produced. This then allows for a re- examination of the initial intentions, and meaningfully co-producing amendments in intentions, actions or intended outcomes.
As we go through the process of reviewing our programs and services, and creating new services or expansions of services, we will consult with Indigenous people that use our services, Indigenous staff, and the Indigenous community. This will be done prior to any implementation of changes or new programming. Whenever a possibility for co-creation of changes exist, we will pursue those.
The majority of our services are an emergency and crisis response to homelessness and reducing harm. We respect that the process of life and housing stability for some of the people we serve requires an investment of time and commitment to journeying with people that surpasses the programming we provide. For people that are Indigenous that use our services, we will endeavour to connect them to culturally appropriate longer-term healing services and workshops run by Indigenous people if they desire. In addition, we will endeavour to connect to Indigenous partners for land-based education for Indigenous people that use Main Street Project programs or services.
To enhance collaboration that is meaningful, we are committed to increasing the participation and representation of Indigenous people on Main Street Project’s Board and staff across all levels of the organization. At a minimum, we will pursue a target of 30% of Board members, management, and direct service staff as being Indigenous, and 50% as female. We will work to position the organization to improve upon the 30% Indigenous representation in subsequent strategic plans to be even more reflective of the proportion of people that are Indigenous that use Main Street Project programs or services.
From a Human Resources perspective, we aim to achieve three areas of improvement pertaining to Indigenous people. One, we intend to hire qualified Indigenous staff that speak Indigenous languages to further improve communication and cultural connectivity between staff and Indigenous people that use our services and programs. Two, we intend to remove barriers whenever possible to hiring Indigenous people including the ability to recruit peer support positions through non-computer means. Three, we will actively work to decolonize recruitment requirements whenever possible. Positions that do not require professional accreditation or diplomas, certificates or degrees will move towards an examination of experience and lived expertise instead.
In establishing a Truth & Reconciliation and Anti- Oppression Framework for the organization, an Indigenous Leadership Circle was formed. It is our intention to continue to engage with the Indigenous Leadership Circle throughout the implementation of this five year strategic plan. We also plan to continue to engage the Indigenous Leadership Circle throughout the implementation of the Truth & Reconciliation and Anti-Oppression Framework.
MSP will actively seek to dismantle and diminish racism, misconceptions, homophobia and stereotypes against any person or group of persons
- Advocating for Indigenous people when providing services that involve interacting with other members of the community
- Appointing an individual as the responsible party to ensure Truth and Reconciliation and anti- oppression goals are continually worked towards
- Publicly acknowledging the role and contributions of Main Street Project in the process of colonization and release public statements on important events and news affecting Indigenous peoples
- Assessing the appropriateness of volunteers engaging with Indigenous people if/when volunteers do not undergo the same training as staff and Board members
- Advocating for rights, inclusion and equity for marginalized groups such as 2SLGBTQ+, non-binary persons, persons living with mental health issues, persons that use substances, women, racialized people, newcomers and refugees that use our services
Strengthening our service delivery, improving our ability to provide meaningful advocacy, and renewing our commitment to be collaborators with the Indigenous community and Indigenous people, we accept that Main Street Project has a role to play in dismantling and diminishing racism, misconceptions, homophobia and stereotypes against Indigenous people. Furthermore, to strengthen our service delivery we must also improve our ability to advocate for the right, inclusion and equity of 2SLGBTQ+, non-binary persons, persons living with mental health issues, persons that use substances, women, racialized people, newcomers and refugees that use our services.
When interacting with other members of the Winnipeg community, we will advocate for Indigenous people that use our services, and will actively engage in dialogue to challenge assumptions and stereotypes, racism and misconceptions that Indigenous people face on a far too regular basis. We hope to advance equity in this pursuit. We can role model for other organizations how to be advocates and allies in this way.
Furthermore, we will advocate for other people
or groups of people that also face issues with misconceptions, assumptions and stereotypes that can be marginalizing and oppressive. We want to actively dismantle these misconceptions, assumptions and stereotypes that can negatively impact women, non-binary people, members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, persons with physical disabilities, persons with intellectual disabilities, persons with brain injuries, racialized people, people who are newcomers, immigrants or refugees, persons living with mental illness, and persons that use substances.
To help move our intentions along and to help strengthen accountability, we will appoint an individual as the party responsible for ensuring Truth and Reconciliation and anti-oppression goals are worked towards over the next five years. We expect to provide opportunities to discuss Truth and Reconciliation and anti-oppression as an entire organization, as well as in each of our functional service areas. We will work to expand communication outlets so that there is broader input on decision-making.
We acknowledge that Main Street Project has engaged in activities and conversations historically that have not always advanced Truth & Reconciliation and may have perpetuated oppression. We have been participants in aspects of colonization. As we work hard to transform, we will work to appropriately publicly acknowledge our past roles and wrongs. Moving forward, we will release public statements on important events and news aecting Indigenous people.
To improve and advance our work of dismantling and diminishing racism, misconceptions, homophobia and stereotypes against Indigenous people, we will more carefully vet when and how to use the offers of assistance from corporate and donor volunteers.
We are committed to putting the needs of service users ahead of the needs of donors and volunteers in instances when the participation of the volunteer may re-traumatize or cause harm to Indigenous people, or other marginalized and oppressed people that use Main Street Project programs or services.
We’ll identify and work to remove all forms of oppression both internally at MSP and externally as they affect the community we serve
- Providing training to sta throughout all programs on oppression and anti-oppression
- Developing a working group across MSP program areas to identify all forms of oppression internally and externally
- Developing an action plan to remove all forms of oppression internally and externally
In order to engage in better anti-oppression work, we feel it is necessary to provide training to staff. With a firmer grasp on the nature of oppression – its dynamics of power and its systemic qualities – we can avoid unintended collusion with oppressive systems. We need to pay attention to the ubiquitous nature of privilege and oppression and the potential consequences of ignoring the reality that oppression exists. We do not want to
be complicit in oppression, nor do we want to see exclusionary and marginalizing behaviours normalized. If we consciously enter into the work from a place of anti-oppression, we are better equipped to expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.
After training is provided, we will form a working
group across MSP program areas to identify all forms
of oppression internally and externally that impact
our program participants, staff and community. From there, we will develop an action plan to endeavour to remove all forms of oppression from MSP, and advocate for ongoing dismantling of oppression as some of our community members experience elsewhere in community, engagement with government, and engagement with institutions.
DEFINITION OF INDIGENOUS HOMELESSNESS IN CANADA
Jesse Thistle’s Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada is an essential document to read to gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous Homelessness in our country.
Indigenous homelessness is a human condition that describes First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities lacking stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means or ability to acquire such housing. Unlike the common colonialist definition of homelessness, Indigenous homelessness is not defined as lacking a structure of habitation; rather, it is more fully described and understood through a composite lens of Indigenous worldviews. These include: individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities. Importantly, Indigenous people experiencing these kinds of homelessness cannot culturally, spiritually, emotionally or physically reconnect with their Indigeneity or lost relationships (Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness, 2012).
THE 12 DIMENSIONS OF INDIGENOUS HOMELESSNESS
as articulated by Indigenous Peoples across Canada
Historic Displacement Homelessness
Indigenous communities and Nations made historically homeless after being displaced from pre-colonial Indigenous lands.
Contemporary Geographic Separation Homelessness
An Indigenous individual’s or community’s separation from Indigenous lands, after colonial control.
Spiritual Disconnection Homelessness
An Indigenous individual’s or community’s Indigenous worldviews or connection to the Creator or equivalent deity
Mental Disruption and Imbalance Homelessness
Mental homelessness, described as an imbalance of mental faculties, experienced by Indigenous individuals and communities caused colonization’s social and economic marginalization of Indigenous Peoples.
Cultural Disintegration and Loss Homelessness
Homelessness that totally dislocates or alienates Indigenous individuals and communities from their culture and from the relationship web of Indigenous society known as “All My Relations.”
The number of people per dwelling in urban and rural Indigenous households that exceeds the national Canadian household average, thus contributing to and creating unsafe, unhealthy and overcrowded living spaces, in turn causing homelessness.
Relocation and Mobility Homelessness
Mobile Indigenous homeless people travelling over geographic distances between urban and rural spaces for access to work, health, education, recreation, legal and childcare services, to attend spiritual events and ceremonies, have access to aordable housing, and to see family, friends and community members.
Going Home Homelessness
An Indigenous individual or family who has grown up or lived outside their home community for a period of time, and on returning “home,” are often seen as outsiders, making them unable to secure a physical structure in which to live, due to federal, provincial, territorial or municipal bureaucratic barriers, uncooperative band or community councils, hostile community and kin members, lateral violence and cultural dislocation.
Nowhere to Go Homelessness
A complete lack of access to stable shelter, housing, accommodation, shelter services or relationships; literally having nowhere to go. Escaping or Evading Harm Homelessness Indigenous persons feeing, leaving or vacating unstable, unsafe, unhealthy or overcrowded households or homes to obtain a measure of safety
or to survive. Young people, women, and 2SLGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable.
Escaping or Evading Harm Homelessness
Indigenous persons fleeing, leaving or vacating unstable, unsafe, unhealthy or overcrowded households or homes to obtain a measure of safety or to survive. Young people, women, and 2SLGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable.
Emergency Crisis Homelessness
Natural disasters, large-scale environmental manipulation and acts of human mischief and destruction, along with bureaucratic red tape, combining to cause Indigenous people to lose their homes because the system is not ready or willing to cope with an immediate demand for housing.
Climatic Refugee Homelessness
Indigenous peoples whose lifestyle, subsistence patterns and food sources, relationship to animals, and connection to land and water have been greatly altered by drastic and cumulative weather shifts due to climate change. These shifts have made individuals and entire Indigenous communities homeless.