A community collaboration led by researchers from Western University’s Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing will bring critical supports to Indigenous youth who are transitioning from homelessness to housed.
The EQUIP Housing Research Project is led by nursing professors Abe Oudshoorn and Vicki Smye and will run in partnership with London’s Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). Researchers from Western will co-lead the project with Indigenous youth to develop and implement equity-oriented and culturally safe practices to support YOU’s delivery of services for those exiting homelessness.
The EQUIP model was originally developed by Western and University of British Columbia researchers to enhance health-care providers’ and organizations’ ability to deliver equity-oriented health care, particularly for those who experience social inequities like substance-use stigma, poverty and racism.
The project will adapt this existing model to address homelessness prevention and cultural safety and will also assess and measure its outcomes and impact.
“Applying the EQUIP model allows us to take an approach that is trauma- and violence-informed and considers issues around substance use health, cultural safety and anti-racism,” said Oudshoorn. “We see this as an important part of supporting YOU’s model of wrap-around care.”
The project will be guided by an Indigenous youth council, comprised of Indigenous youth who have accessed YOU’s services in the past. The research team integrates both Indigenous and non-Indigenous expertise, as does the project implementation team.
YOU provides a range of services covering basic needs, access to physical, mental or dental health care, education and employment supports, and operates the YOU Housing First Youth Shelter where the project will be implemented.
“We’re so very thrilled to be part of this project,” said Steve Cordes, chief executive officer of YOU. “It’s an unfortunate reality that Indigenous people face marginalization. As an organization that supports marginalized youth, it was vitally important that our staff team have the cultural training and supports they need to ensure Indigenous youth in our care experience a culturally safe place.”
The project will proceed over two years, adapting and implementing tools from the EQUIP toolkit that are selected by the Indigenous Youth Council to help YOU transform their spaces, practices and policies. The council also will be empowered to decide which tools are maintained and become ongoing. Their voices and decisions will be supported throughout the project.
“Indigenous youth often feel they are in a vulnerable place when accessing services in non-Indigenous organizations,” said Rachel Radyk, a master’s student in nursing, research fellow with the project and an AnishinaabeKwe and member of the Chippewas of the Georgina Island First Nation. “Working on the Indigenous Youth Council, with graduate students alongside them, helps to empower them to be involved and to bring change forward. Building these relationships empowers youth to continue to grow as Indigenous leaders.”
The team will be continuously measuring and reporting the impacts of this implementation with an eye to develop ‘EQUIP Housing’ as a model and toolkit to transform or decolonize their own practices and prevent homelessness among Indigenous youth.
The EQUIP Housing Research Project, which is funded by Making the Shift, Networks of Centres of Excellence, will be launched on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 6:00 p.m. at the YOU Made It Café.