A new report examines barriers to housing faced by Indigenous people moving from First Nations communities to Winnipeg's West End.
From House to Home: Safe Spaces for Us was created by Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA) in partnership with University of Manitoba researchers and an Indigenous steering committee over the past nine months. It includes recommendations to improve housing outcomes for new Indigenous Winnipeggers, most of which will be implemented by SNA in the next project phase.
"Not a lot of Indigenous folks who are moving to the city are aware of services or resources within the city, and this report…is going to guide us as to how can address that," said Cheryl Starr, Indigenous input in local housing coordinator at SNA and lead report author.
Starr and two University of Manitoba researchers—assistant professor Sarah Cooper and masters student Anna McKinnon—interviewed 37 people who moved from First Nations communities to the Spence Neighbourhood over the past 11 years. They also surveyed 43 Indigenous renters living in the West End. They looked at reasons people chose to move to Winnipeg, their experiences of moving and the barriers to finding good housing in the city.
The report found that a lack of understanding and available information around housing systems foreign to the new Winnipeggers was a major problem.
A different governance system and way of understanding the world was "really jarring and alienating" to people, Cooper said.
"It wasn’t just that people couldn’t get housing or couldn’t get a security deposit to access housing, it was that when they moved to the city there was this real sense of dislocation."
To help people navigate new systems and reduce their sense of dislocation, the report recommends the development of resource tutorials for people planning to move, as well as navigation toolkits to help landlords and service providers better meet the needs of new Indigenous Winnipeggers. It also recommends better policy and communication around security deposit requirements, as well as new ways to help people earn money for a deposit.
Racism, bias and stereotyping are also identified as significant obstacles to housing. To address them, the report recommends the creation of a West End working group in partnership with Indigenous organizations and Elders to develop cultural competencies and history training toolkits for landlords, property management companies and other service organizations.
To reflect the West End's Indigenous population and create a greater sense of belonging the report calls for the creation of an Indigenous housing hub or network that includes representatives from Indigenous organizations and all levels of government.
A number of the report's recommendations are for government, including the development of Indigenous-specific housing models, but a majority will be tackled by SNA during a nine-month second phase of the project which Starr said will begin immediately.
"We are happy to announce that we did receive funding for a phase two," Starr announced to applause at the report launch in May.
The report, and the phase two recommendations being implemented by SNA, are funded by the non-profit Community Housing Transformation Centre, which works to support community housing in Canada.
Starr, an Indigenous woman from Sagkeeng First Nation, says the report advances some of the calls to action and recommendations put forth by the Truth and ReconciliationnCommission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.
She says it also holds value for communities across Canada.
"The whole purpose of putting out a report is (to create) another way for organizations to learn about these issues and hopefully take away from the recommendations."
Go to spenceneighbourhood.org and look for research publications within the about menu to read the report.
Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf