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