Honouring lived experience wisdom: Healing and healing environments according to ‘family members’ in Indigenous-led alcohol harm reduction and culturally supportive housing




Brown, Meaghan

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Honouring lived experience wisdom: Defining healing and healing environments according to ‘family members’ in Indigenous-led alcohol harm reduction and culturally supportive housing’ illustrates a strengths-based story of ‘culture as healing’ (CAH) and decolonized harm reduction for seven Indigenous people with experiences of homelessness and significant alcohol-related harm. Based in a broader dual-site study on the design, implementation, and evaluation of Indigenous-led Managed Alcohol Programs (MAPs), this research responds to gaps in knowledge on the implementation and impacts of Indigenous-led MAPs and CAH models among primarily western MAPs in Canada. Based in five years of relationship with the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness Society (ACEH), I explore healing perspectives and experiences of ‘family members’ (residents) of the ACEH Indigenous Alcohol Harm Reduction Residence Program (IAHRRP) and Culturally Supportive House (CSH), located on Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territory (Victoria, BC). Objectives of this study aim to identify practices, policies, and principles that are reflective of ‘healing’ and ‘healing environments’ according to family members. This qualitative collaborative study is guided by Indigenous methodological principles and community protocols developed in partnership with the ACEH and Canadian Managed Alcohol Program Study (CMAPS) as part of an Indigenous-western/Settler research partnership. In outlining the methodological approach to this project, I critically explore my position and role as a Settler student, researcher, and nurse in this partnership and in relation to community. I draw upon three interrelated conceptual frameworks to inform analysis in relation to healing and culture, alcohol, and housing: the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework (FNMWCF) (Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, & Health Canada, 2015), Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada (Thistle, 2017), and the ACEH Dual Model of Housing Care (Hunt-Jinnouchi et al., 2021). Across three manuscripts, I present 10 themes related to definitions of healing, impacts of the CSH and IAHRRP, and factors that promote ‘healing environments’ from the perspectives of family members. Paper one illustrates themes of family members’ definitions and experiences with CAH: Being in an Indigenous home with Indigenous people; Finding purpose and contributing to the home; Learning/re-learning and living Indigenous ways of being and doing; and Land-based healing. In paper two, themes reflecting healing impacts and healing environments of culturally supportive housing are presented: Respite from the street and system in an Indigenous space; Genuine connection; and being heard and mutually respected. Paper three focuses on themes of healing and healing environments in relation to the IAHRRP: A choice I’m making right now; Multiple pathways for connection to culture, with or without alcohol; and Giving me the reigns to take care of myself with a home. Lastly, I conclude with a set of recommendations for the design and implementation of Indigenous-led MAPs and CAH models guided by the perspectives of family members. Four recommendations draw upon learnings identified across the 10 themes, including to create spaces that reflect an “Indigenous home” of belonging and pride; offer land-based healing and teaching accessible to Indigenous people with experiences of homelessness and alcohol use; centralize lived experience wisdom in the development of practices and policies that address the unique safety and wellness definitions of Indigenous people with experiences of homelessness, systemic, and street-based violence; and facilitate multiple pathways to connect to culture as healing. While recommendations are most responsive to the highly localized context of the IAHRRP and CSH, they may offer transferable insights for the design and development of future Indigenous-led MAPs.



indigenous, culture as healing, homelessness, alcohol, harm reduction