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ID: 263

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Aboriginal Communities and Harm Reduction; Homelessness, Housing and Harm Reduction

Presenting author: Bryany Denning

Presenting author biography:

Bryany Denning, M.Sc., M.S.W., is the Executive Director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, a grassroots non-profit organization in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The Yellowknife Women's Society owns and operates a shelter for homeless women, a daycare, a family programs agency, and the Yellowknife Housing First program.

Harm Reduction and Housing First in Northern Canada

Bryany Denning

In 2016, the Yellowknife Housing First program housed our first participants. Previous housing programs in Yellowknife have focused on transitional housing, including both harm reduction and sober housing models; however, breaking rules, such as causing a disturbance, can and often does result in ejection from the program. Our program is the first in the Northwest Territories that uses a client-centred, recovery-oriented approach to ensuring that clients do not lose their housing when they struggle with compliance to other programming or treatment.
Outside of Yellowknife, there are very few resources for homeless individuals in the Northwest Territories, and what addiction resources are available are focused on abstinence, including outright prohibition of alcohol in some communities. This presentation will summarize the first six months of program implementation (mid-October 2016 to mid-April 2017) and will include lessons learned, successes and challenges, and recommendations regarding future implementation of the Housing First model in a northern context. It will also explore challenges related to using the Housing First model with Indigenous clients in the North, acknowledging the impacts of the tradition of abstinence-based models within Indigenous communities, and how this affects the response of individuals, both in and outside our program, to harm reduction models. Finally, we will describe cultural elements within the program, and adaptations that we have created, in order to provide Housing First services in a culturally safe manner.