Fostering Community Belonging: Do You Feel Welcome in Your Community?

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Delano Flintroy-Scott, Peer Support Specialist, Thomas Donaghy OPS, Brennan Vaughn, Assistant Manager, Rachel Plamondon-Assu, We-Wai-Kai Nation, Senior Manager, Peer Services © Courtesy of RainCity Housing

Feeling welcome in the community where you live can be just as important as having a safe, warm place to call home.

RainCity Housing is a non-Indigenous organization that offers housing and support services on the stolen, unceded, ancestral, traditional homelands of the Xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ Nations in Vancouver, the q̓íc̓əy̓, qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm, qiqéyt, SEMYOME, Stó꞉lō, and sc̓əwaθən məsteyəxʷ Nations in the Lower Mainland, and the shíshálh Nation on the Sunshine Coast.

June is National Indigenous History Month and as a non-Indigenous organization, we continue to learn and deepen our understanding of the structures that perpetuate and support colonialism within RainCity, structures that harm Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour. We’re committed to learning from our actions and recognize the importance of our role in building culturally safe spaces within RainCity and recognize this work is ongoing.

Throughout Canada, people who use substances and Indigenous Peoples are over-represented among individuals that live without a home. Woven throughout RainCity’s programming are Peer Services—staff with lived and living experience—and Indigenous Cultural Services. Having Indigenous cultural and peer supports in place that recognize culture, community and connection are all critical to supporting people’s overall health and well-being.

Indigenous Cultural Services provides opportunities for Indigenous folks to create stronger communities through cultural support, kinship, and ceremony. The Indigenous Cultural Services Department is dedicated to creating safer spaces for Indigenous folks to connect and be seen, bridging cultural and service gaps, and centring Indigenous ways of being, knowing, and doing.

Crucial to the Indigenous Cultural Services Department is the support and guidance from Elders. Elder services can look like many things: one-to-one support, hosting circles, cleansing of spaces through ceremony, end of life ceremony, and teachings. They provide input on cultural services and roles, the use of ceremonial practice and medicine protocols, and how to support traditional knowledge like the use of smudging.

“Elders are storytellers, teachers, protectors, healers, and pivotal members of Indigenous communities, who, by way of their life experience, resistance to assimilation and erasure, and the oral tradition of generational connection, act as our most sacred holders and sharers of tradition, knowledge and stories,” — Danièle Hurley, Cree-Métis, Irish, Associate Director

Danièle Hurley, Cree-Métis, Irish, Associate Director, Annie Johnston, Cree Nation, Elder, Marie Prince, Dakelh & Tse'khene Nations, Manager, Indigenous Cultural Services © Courtesy of RainCity housing

As we strive to ensure people feel welcome and understood, we continue, as a community, to be impacted by a tragic, ongoing public health crisis—the drug poisoning epidemic. This public health crisis has only become more complex over the past eight years. This preventable public health crisis continues to devastate the people we support, our teams, our colleagues, and our friends.

The Peer Services Department allows us to add something else to our work: the practice of applying one’s own knowledge of health and healing from difficult circumstances and using that lived experience to build connections and instill hope in others. Within the Peer Services department, we offer Peer Witnessing—peers who provide support and witness use in the places drug users live—to increase safety.

“As a department, we focus on being able to create opportunities for folks that are still entrenched in the lifestyle, for folks that are new in recovery, for folks that are exiting jails, folks that think they aren't going to be able to get a job.” — Rachel Plamondon-Assu, We-Wai-Kai Nation, Senior Manager

Our Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Services and Supports continue to expand in all communities where we work, due to the unabating drug poisoning epidemic.

RainCity Housing provides supported affordable housing and programming in more than 12 municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast. As an organization, we’re intentionally working to create community by welcoming people into all our housing programs, people who have often been made to feel unwelcome in community spaces and health and social service environments.

How You Can Help

A home is not just
a roof and a warm bed
a shelter
a place
A home is where
a person feels safe
a person feels understood
a person feels welcome in their community
Our ask is simple—please donate.
Your donation helps RainCity Housing continue to build on and learn from these crucial supports. Help RainCity continue to innovate in these and other important ways in every community we work in.

Are you or someone you know Indigenous and/or has lived experience? Indigenous Cultural Services and Peer Services are hiring! Click to view our Indigenous and Peer positions.

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For four decades RainCity Housing has put government funds and generous donor dollars to good use to create, implement, and manage housing and support programs that sustain relationships, strengthen communities and make change for people experiencing homelessness and mental health, trauma and substance use issues, throughout BC’s lower mainland. 

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