programs & services

The Four Pillars

The image of a Coast Salish Big House provides the framework for the Aboriginal Housing Strategy. Big Houses have 4 corner posts, each providing a different perspective and support to the House. For the Aboriginal Strategy, each posts represents one component or strategic initiative needed. All four posts are equal in urgency and importance and together provide the structure for Aboriginal housing in our community. The vision for the strategy is at the center of the House, providing the warmth, the fire that unites us in this work.

Creating a climate of love and care

As the only Indigenous-led organization on Vancouver Island which focuses on Aboriginal Homelessness, the work of the ACEHS is critical. Since 2016, the ACEHS has conducted research using a phenomenological approach through surveys, focus groups and talking circles. Through these resources, we have gathered baseline data, health and wellness information, and direct feedback from the Aboriginal Street Community about access to cultural support including identifying the gaps in services and discussing what cultural supports and services they would like to see offered.

The work of the ACEHS is centered on the voices of Aboriginal peoples who have shared their immediate needs, lived experiences, systemic and structural barriers, as well as their hopes, dreams and importantly, their perspectives on solutions. Within this context, the ACEHS seeks to create a climate of love and care to help members of the Aboriginal Street Community gain cultural supports and connections as well as housing stability.

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With excitement, we present the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness (ACEH) Society’s 5-Year Housing Strategy. This plan reflects over six years of knowledge gathering and responding to needs conveyed by the Indigenous Street Family. Our approach to housing development began in 2016 with lessons learned from the Priority One 3-Year Pilot Program. At this time the ACEH collaborated with Island Health and the Victoria CoolAid Society to provide housing for 20 Indigenous people identified as highrisk with complex needs. Initial findings were positive and suggested cultural support to improve housing sustainability as a potential leading practice. From there, the Dual Model of Housing Care took form, with Culturally Supportive Housing provided alongside decolonized harm reduction practice as a pathway to healing and recovery.

The Family Reunification Program (FRP) provides a safe, comfortable home environment for Indigenous Street Family members to visit with their children and grandchildren in Ministry care or staying with extended family. In addition to accessing the 3-bedroom townhouse, the following supports are provided by the program coordinator: service navigation, visitation supervision as needed, house maintenance, and safety preparedness. Through the FRP, self-identity is strengthened, intergenerational familial connection is (re)built, and Indigenous Street Family members who otherwise would be unable to connect with their children are finding a deep, lasting purpose. In its first year of operation, access to the FRP has proven to have transformational impacts, leading to harm reduction among parents and extended visitations with their children over time.

Our 2nd Annual Housing Report provides highlights specific to our housing sites and services across the housing continuum — from supporting those who are living rough on the streets or tent encampments, to those we transition into our Culturally Supportive Housing and Westshore independent housing.

We learned from the Indigenous Street Community about their perspectives on the language commonly used to describe their lived and living experience. Wise practice for service providers to reduce the impacts of stigma was also shared.

Some of the wise practices to avoid stigma is to use community centered language, acknowledge diversity of personal experiences and use person-first language.

After participating in a series of Sharing Circles and community-led workshops, ACEHS staff developed recommendations for how our organization can better support First Nations, Métis and Inuit 2SLGBTQQIA+ staff and Family Members. Recommendations have been grouped into four focus areas and are presented here as an Action Framework.

The Four Areas include: Building inclusive environments, building strong community networks, creating accessible education and programs and developing inclusive policies and regulations.

The Indigenous Systems Improvement Map identifies organizations that Indigenous street community members use for emotional and mental wellness, spiritual and cultural wellness, as well as physical wellness.

The top 10 accessed organizations were invited to join the Collaborative Response Network to address the core service gaps in our community.

125 Indigenous Street Community Members shared their responses to our questions regarding gaps in services in the Greater Victoria Area. Our goal was to find where assistance was needed and how organizations can support their wellness.

We discovered many opportunities to help support our community and identified various gaps in our community.

This is the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness Society’s first annual housing report. Despite the many pivots taken to respond to COVID-19, the ACEHS has grown exponentially over the past year. This year, the ACEHS opened its first two houses in Victoria, Spaken House and the Culturally Supportive House. Both houses operate through the ACEHS’s Dual Model of Housing Care, which integrates culturally supportive housing with decolonized harm reduction practices to provide pathways to healing and recovery. This report provides key information about those housed by the ACEHS, as well as the numerous support programs offered.

The 2020/2021 Transitions Report outlines the Aboriginal Coalition To End Homelessness Society’s successes in transitioning members of the Indigenous Street Community into independent housing between December 2020 to March 2021. The ACEHS has identified isolation as the leading challenge faced by the independent housing cohort in the transition to independent living. Because of this, the ACEHS facilitates the transition to independent living by providing start up kits, food boxes, donations of furniture and houseware, as well as the ongoing support of the Housing Transition Advocate. To continue individuals’ healing journeys, the Housing Transition Advocate facilitates community-building and life-skills events.

The name may be misleading, since a Point-in-Time Count (or PiT Count) is much more than just a count or a number. A PiT Count provides our communities with valuable information about who is experiencing homelessness in our region and what factors contribute to experiences of homelessness – information gathered directly from connecting with, and talking to, people experiencing homelessness in a particular area, on a particular night, at a single point-in-time. This year’s Greater Victoria Point-in-Time Count took place on March 15, 2018.

The Vision for Our Future Report released in December 2016 documents a project sought to develop an overall report and action plan to combat Aboriginal homelessness in Victoria. The Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness brought together participants from the Aboriginal Street Community to share their experiences with homelessness to learn about the barriers they face, and hear their ideas for action and change. The report helped to shape the Aboriginal Coalition’s direction and strategic priorities.

In early 2016, the Victoria Integrated Court and Island Health Assertive Community Treatment and Intensive Case Management (ACT and ICM) teams identified 74 individuals with high needs, requiring individualized, low barrier, culturally safe living environments with intensive supports. These individuals were homeless or recently homeless and almost all were banned or recently banned from housing and/or shelter services. The importance of this population in our community has resulted in the group being called the ‘Priority One’ population. 20 of the 74 people identified as Priority One also self-identify as Aboriginal. The Victoria Cool Aid Society (VCAS), the ACEHS and Island Health partnered to submit a proposal to the CRD to find a pilot program with a culturally-specific model of care. VCAS committed to provide 20 housing units, ACEHS agreed to provide leadership related to cultural components and Island Health provided a contact from 713 to assist in support The Priority One Lessons Learned Report compiled in March 2018 is a culmination of lessons learned over the course of sixteen months of Phase 1 of the Priority One pilot program – Towards Health and Well Being Through Cultural Community.

The Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness is considering an Indigenous-led Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) to support those experiencing housing insecurity and alcohol dependence. ACEHS obtained a grant from Vancouver Island Health Authority to fund a MAP Feasibility study and commissioned Coreen Child Consulting to facilitate consultations with community members and service providers. Renee McBeth Beausoleil supported the research and led the writing behind this report.

Wisdom of the Elders – Guidance from the Community: A Tailored Approach to Indigenize Harm Reduction. With funding from First Nations Health Authority and Vancouver Island Health Authority, in June 2018, the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness held a 2-day Gathering to collaboratively develop a harm reduction framework contextualized by Indigenous knowledge. This report is an overview of the Gathering.

The Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness embarked on this research to learn more about the barriers experienced by the Indigenous Street Community (ISC) and to determine ways to more effectively support their health and wellness needs. Between May 2017 – December 2017, 90 people from the Indigenous Street Community were surveyed. The surveys conducted within the downtown core of Victoria.

With gratitude the ACEHS acknowledges the Lekwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia’new, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ (Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum) peoples on whose ancestral homelands and unceded territories we gather, live, and work.