Every Thursday evening, Kingston youth and adults can find Indigenous programming at both One Roof Youth Services Hub and Home Base Housing Warming Centre. For those looking to cleanse with a smudge, listen and share in a safe circle, or learn a new craft, these two organizations hold space for anyone to participate.
One Roof is an organization under the umbrella of Home Base Housing (HBH). Both programs are geared towards people who face or have lived experience of homelessness and who are seeking community, cultural, and spiritual support. HBH supports those experiencing a range of challenges: financial, substance abuse, mental illness, developmental disabilities, and physical injuries. While its programming is intended for adults experiencing homelessness, it is open to the Kingston community at large.
One Roof offers Indigenous youth a safe place to share and learn about culture
The program at One Roof is geared to youths aged 16 to 25 and is funded by a Crime Prevention grant provided by Public Safety Canada. In an e-mail, Case Manager Raymond Byrne said that when the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions began, “we started program development immediately and began accepting our first clients for in-person supports beginning in March of 2021.”
“The idea was to give Indigenous youth a place not only to learn about their culture, traditions, and teachings, but also to provide a safe place to share the teachings they may already possess from their home communities,” he shared. “The program is designed to be inclusive, with the families of Indigenous youth and their non-Indigenous peers all welcome to attend and participate fully.”
Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., youth are invited to join Cultural Coordinator and Knowledge Keeper, Helena Neveu, at One Roof. “We start with a smudge and a circle to check in with everyone who attends the program. We then initiate the prescribed activity and teaching for the night,” explained Byrne. “Depending on the teaching or activity, these tasks can take a few weeks to complete, such as our ribbon shirt and dress making workshops. To end the program in a good way, we would then have our feast and end the night with some socialization amongst participants.”
One Roof is committed to working with the Indigenous community and ensuring that teachings are shared by recognized Elders and knowledge keepers. “We work with community members, other agencies, and Indigenous-serving organizations that work with Indigenous youth on a regular basis,” added Byrne. “Examples include, but are not limited to, the River Program at Katarokwi Learning Centre, the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Garden, the Keewaywin Circle and the Enyonkwa’nikonhriyohake’ (also known as the “Good Minds”) Program. We routinely collaborate with these organizations to determine program gaps, reduce program duplication, and enhance or complement existing programs via the sharing of resources.”
Some of the program’s creative activities made a lasting impression on One Roof’s space. “One of the big things we’ve done with the youth was to create the mural in the Drop-in at One Roof,” said Byrne. “Two local artists, Lee Stewart and Bree Rappaport, worked with some the youth in the group and our Cultural Coordinator to design and paint a beautiful mural based on the Seven Grandfather Teachings. It’s a gorgeous addition to One Roof.”
The rationale, as explained by Byrne, for creating this specialized program for Indigenous youth and for having two Indigenous case managers at One Roof, “is in recognition of the historical and systemic reasons why Indigenous youth are over-represented in the justice system and frequently in conflict with the law.”
“Many of the Indigenous youth we support aren’t sure about their heritage, and the Indigenous Programming that we do at One Roof can help them learn some traditional teachings and feel connected to their culture and the larger Indigenous community,” Byrne added. He explained that urban Indigenous youth are especially subject to displacement due to the devastating effects of the Indian Residential School System and adoptions that occurred during the ’60s Scoop.’
“We routinely have strong attendance with some youth coming back weekly and others more sporadically,” said Byrne. “Generally, we expect a mix of youth that use our drop-in services, in conjunction with those that come specifically for Indigenous Programming.”
Home Base Housing adult programming for Indigenous teachings and creativity
Home Base has recently followed One Roof’s lead, beginning to offer programming for their adult clientele and the broader community. They are in the early stages of coordinating the program and do not yet have a regular schedule. So far, they have held a dream catcher making workshop, led by knowledge keeper Helena Neveu, and a “Tea and Talk” facilitated by Tsi Kanonhkwatsheríyo Indigenous Interprofessional Primary Care Team (KIIPCT). There is another Tea and Talk scheduled for Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2022, which will involve teachings around cedar and pine tea and offerings of traditional corn bread.
In an email, Indigenous Outreach Worker Heather Loudon explained that HBH felt it was important to initiate this program, “because there really isn’t any Indigenous programming in Kingston to begin with. The programming that is available, the homeless population is left out of it. For example, there’s programming for youth and women at other organizations, but nothing really for single adult men and women. And up until recently, most places required proof of ID and vaccination. Although a majority of the homeless population do have their vaccination, its very difficult for them to provide proof and show ID. When programming is held at the Warming Centre, they do not need to show proof of those.”
Loudon pointed out that Home Base Housing is designing these workshops based on the needs and feedback of the community members themselves. “Before organizing the workshops, I was asking clients what they would be interested in attending and what is needed,” she said. “A majority of them desire to attend a sharing/talking circle, cook Indigenous food, and make crafts, such as dream catchers.”
The workshops, talks, and sharing circles are a safe space for anyone to join, said Loudon. “Anyone is able to participate; they do not have to identify as Indigenous. However, I do mostly reach out to places that work with the homeless population, and post flyers at low-income/rent-geared-income places. But it is a place where anyone is welcome.”
Home Base continues to look for more facilitators who would like to be involved. For now, they extend their gratitude to the United Way of KFL&A and Lionhearts for opening up their location to use for the programming. Loudon said programming is set to continue until the end of April, at which time she hopes another location will be secured to continue hosting their programming after the Warming Centre closes for the season at the end of June.