In Vancouver a new type of Indigenous community is emerging — one that builds resilience, health, creativity and culture through shared housing and local, Indigenous leadership.

“People have a hard time seeing themselves as creative people without ‘the basics’,” said Mike Alexander, a Vancouver-based Indigenous artist. Having access to secure housing, personal safety and resources that other people take for granted, he said, “makes it easier to “step outside yourself and see the world through a creative lens.”

Alexander, an Anishinaabe artist from Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba, is in residence at Skwachàys Lodge, an innovative social enterprise where hotel rooms subsidize rent for artists who sell their art in the hotel gift shop. He grew up in Winnipeg and now calls Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside home thanks to this residency program.

Caroline Phelps, Artist In Residence Program Coordinator and Cultural Liaison Lead at Skwachàys Lodge, said that subsidized housing through the residency program is a form of cultural preservation. “We’re helping them to keep our culture alive,” she said, “by looking through their artistic lens of what they see and what they’re creating.”

Since opening in 2014, 110 artists have completed a residency. Among them are Kwakwakaʼwakw and Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr., whose designs are going to be on BC Ferries; Justin Rain, a Plains Cree actor who was on “Fear the Walking Dead”; Secwépemc actress and director Grace Dove; and Peter Chapman First Nation painter Jerry Whitehead.

Lu’ma Native Housing Society’s Children’s Village is another example of a housing program in the greater Vancouver area that integrates an Indigenous cultural worldview.  The project was designed to support Indigenous children in foster care and provide them with stability. One of the features that makes this project so innovative is that if issues arise between the foster family and the child in care, the foster family moved instead of the child. This creates stability for the child because they aren’t having to pack up and move and they have a place to call home.

Read the full article about reimagining housing by Alison Tedford at Shareable.