In support of the launch of the This Is Not Home (TINH) Project, below is an excerpt from a spoken word poem written by Shayla, a Lived Expert Advisor to the project, through the West End Womens' Resource Centre, Winnipeg, MB. Shayla is a writer, storyteller, and a Spoken Word artist/wordsmith.
TINH developed a community-based, participatory research partnership, that focuses on gender-specific low-barrier drop-in programs serving multiply-marginalized women and gender-diverse people. The partnership involves six gender-specific drop-in programs from across Canada, lived-expert advisors, researchers and sector leaders.
Chelle realized she was waking up, she listened carefully, eyes still shut, but all was silent. Old habits from being on the street, homeless. Inhaling deeply, what a Gift, to be alive, and well, she thought. And safe. In her own bed. No other body beside her, crowding her into a few inches of space, no drunken memories of bad sex, and most of all, no loud screaming and fighting, in her room, her building, or out in the street. Her own place, here in Auntie’s Place.
She still couldn’t believe the last three months: the seven floors of the circular social housing building that became Auntie’s Place seemed to go up like magic. Three levels of government funding flowed, it rose up in weeks when she thought it would be months, built with hemp materials and other good-to-Mother-Earth sustainable materials—not concrete! The call for applications, scrambling to get her older laptop going, and online, waiting impatiently during the screening process, the acceptance—yay!--she so remembered the call--the orientation, the moving in, the healing work she was doing, the life skills upgrading, (re-) learning how to be part of a community. A very busy three months indeed.
Mrrp. Her kitties Bright Eyes and Big Brother coming to say “Good Morning”. Such a blessing, to have her 4-foots with her, and her psychologist said she had done lots of healing, she did not need to call them her ‘emotional rescue’ kitties, they were no longer ‘pet therapy’. She could now call them her ‘writer’s kitties’, she and them, were promoted.
As she scratched them under their chins, she recalled her spoken word piece at the launch:
“. . . me: I am part of the 60’s Scoop
JOJO: “The Stolen Generation now called”
in foster care, then at 3 months of age, adopted out to Dutch-Canadians
away from my People
I was considered middle class, same as you
and that I was from somewhere around the Mediterranean—but not Cree. Never Cree.
always looking for my community, where I belonged
always alone isolated so ashamed of who I am
JOJO: “I was suicidal”
being a teenager, could not ask for birth or adoption records—
JOJO: “had no self-esteem by the end of my teens
JOJO: “drinking to excess”
--because I visited Vancouver, could have
ended up on Pickton’s pig farm as one of the
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
my 20’s, into my 30’s a continual search for my identity
came to Winnipeg in the fall of 1997 connected with my People Iniwé
JOJO: “The Cree”
things were starting to look up
then I was raped in my own home thought I was going to be choked
to death become another stat for the MMIWG
There were other rapes, but this one I thought I was going to die
being raped—June 2003--started my journey of
JOJO: “inadequate housing”
could not keep on working so could not pay rent so lost my place
started couch-surfing It was an Indigenous housing advocate who told me
that although I was not out on the street, I was still
JOJO: “precariously housed”
because I did not start out as down-and-out but ended up there I was told by some so-called friends, male
“If I help you out with food, a place to sleep, you can help me out/
JOJO: “A man has needs”
that white dominant capitalistic Jesus-loving culture says that some women count, some don’t
I guess I became of the ones that didn’t count when I didn’t have a real home . . .
did you know that one can get a Social Work degree and not take one single course, in the consequences of poverty, the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual consequences, of poverty. Not one course.
while couch-surfing, could not always keep my cat, my fur-buddy with me
often, just had my knapsack with me
once I got a psychologist, through the Compensation for Victims of Crime program, the provincial Ministry of Justice she told me I have PTSD actually, multiple traumas
from the rapes and beatings assaults and being robbed/jacked including historical trauma from being adopted away from my People
JOJO: “--A multi-generational effect from the residential schools
my birth-mother went
being homeless meant hearing
JOJO: “It’s funny that you don’t have your cat with you.
He’s with a friend--
JOJO: “You can’t even look after your cat, how can you look after yourself? Why can’t you look after yourself? You are always looking for hand-outs. If you are homeless, you must be stupid’” --excerpt