This is Part One of a two-part post sharing the work of a two-day WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each (THEO) gathering which took place March 29 and 30, 2019. This work will shape what is to come as the THEO project moves forward. Future work will include members of the public and philanthropic sectors, as well as the larger community – both Native and non-Native.
On March 29th and 30th a group of people met at Open Arms of Minnesota to continue the work of the WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each Other project, otherwise known as THEO. The group included representatives from Native-led non-profit agencies All Nations Church, Gitchitwaa Kateri Church, and residents of the Navigation Center. The sun streaming in the windows illuminated the sense of engagement and optimism in the room.
The gathering was a continuation of the grassroots research and planning process that began in February with a one-day information “harvesting” session at the Navigation Center. In that session the residents of the Center were asked to share their thoughts and ideas regarding unmet needs of the unsheltered homeless community. In keeping with THEO’s commitment to creating a truly grassroots-led process, organizers felt it was necessary to hear directly from the people who live the experience of life without safe shelter. Residents responded to four questions:
- What does “desirable housing” mean to you? What does it look like?
- What does “healing” look like and mean to you?
- What does “good health” include and look like to you?
- What are useful or helpful supports, services or resources that would help you secure the life you want for yourself?
In total over 200 responses were gathered to these queries.
Participants reviewed and organized these responses to create a vision statement, identified the issues and obstacles blocking progress towards a community-based vision, and set down a set of strategic directions that would create a pathway to progress. This pathway would lead towards 1) expanded resources and opportunities; 2) strength, stability and wholeness for current and future generations; and 3) secure, prosperous and stable tribal villages.
I was present at the gathering, and it was uplifting to read the hopeful responses of the Navigation Center group and witness skepticism slowly yielding to a cautious yearning to be heard. It was our responsibility to honor this yearning and use the resident’s shared hopes and ideas to craft a vision for the future.
Now came the more difficult - yet central - part of our weekend’s work: identifying the issues standing in the way of delivering opportunities to those in the the Native community seeking housing, health, safety and well-being. After hours of discussion and analysis, the group identified four primary obstacles:
Gross unfamiliarity with Native people reinforcing an implicit bias that negates a collective sense of responsibility and accountability to respond to the needs of our Indigenous community.
Results-based eligibility criteria and assessments that rely on exclusionary definitions that undermine resiliency, separate people from their support systems ad perpetuate homelessness, vulnerability and dysfunction.
Policy makers and resource holders reliance on single-point solutions to contain problems; solutions that too often rely on tokenism and inaccurate data resulting in missed opportunities for impact and the perpetuation of existing obstacles to addressing basic human needs.
Long-standing mutual distrust between decision-makers and the community which limits engagement and the possibility of shared problem solving - and which defaults to habitual practices that rely on faulty assumptions and fuel chronic, partial, and impermanent systemic responses.
Whoa, take a deep breath. That is a lot to take in. When viewed as a whole the obstacles we face seem almost insurmountable – but they are not. What’s needed to address long-standing systemic barriers is a step-by-step plan of pragmatic and executable strategies. Nothing changes overnight with the wave of a magic wand or the shake of an angry fist. Real, long-lasting, deep-rooted change is often incremental and requires patience and tenacity. Like the parable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady is what will win this race.
Part Two of this two-part post will be published Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
Post by Camille. See photos of the gathering below.
(Everyone pictured gave consent to have their picture taken.)
Please note that much of the language in this post was taken from or inspired by a meeting overview document created by THEO facilitators, Paul, Lesley and Sidney Kabotie, of Indigenous Collaboration.
Some of the participants at the gathering, which tool place over two days.
Over 200 responses from Navigation Center residents, distilled.
Our work spilled off the wall and onto the windows
Sidney Kabotie of Indigenous Collaboration.
This is Part One of a two-part post sharing the work of a two-day WiiDooKoDaaDiiWag/They Help Each (THEO) gathering which took place March 29 and 30, 2019. This work will shape what is to come as the THEO project moves forward to include members of the public and philanthropic sectors, and the larger community – both Native and non-Native. Part Two of this two-part post will be published Wednesday, June 19, 2019.