By Leann Littlewolf, Tribal Organizer
A Large part of Tribal Organizing at the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH) is centered in building strong relationships with American Indian communities and to learn more deeply about effective and creative solutions.
The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) is a MCH member in northeast Minnesota who is leading the way in innovative strategies. AICHO has designed a continuum of housing options, supportive services, and community action that respond to crisis while laying the path forward for long-term stability--for individuals and the community. AICHO has developed exceptional collaborations that leverage greater resources and recognize Tribal Nations as valuable partners in generating solutions.
AICHO was established in 1993 to provide shelter, housing and support services that are culturally specific to Native Americans living in the Duluth area. AICHO's Mission is to honor the resiliency of Native American people by strengthening communities and centering indigenous values in all aspects of our work. AICHO's philosophy is that every Native American person deserves to live in a non-violent and non-threatening environment and has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. AICHO incorporates Native American culture and traditions in its programs and serves all people in need.
AICHO has built a continuum of responses that address the intersections of disparities: the impact of violence, domestic violence, housing instability, economic inequity, historical trauma, and racism. AICHO anchors the responses in a strengths-based approach, rooted in cultural traditions and practices.
Our MCH team visited AICHO during the 2015 Greater Minnesota Housing Tour to see the multitude of solutions they offer in action and were greatly impressed by their leadership and work to end homelessness.
The focus on future generations and community well-being is strongly evident. The MCH team walked through a children's space that the children helped design and painted a brightly colored mural incorporating traditional stories and themes. AICHO works with the children and youth in reclaiming traditional food and health systems and grows traditional foods and medicines on a rooftop garden. Healthy, fresh food is offered daily to residents and community members.
Opportunities to connect with each other are built throughout the organization, bringing program participants, staff, and community together. The Gimaajii building has office space with specialized services and partner organizations, interspersed with community spaces like the gymnasium for resident use.
AICHO has a variety of on-site events and had over 11,000 guests in the Gimaajii community space last year. AICHO champions Indigenous culture through the arts, hosting frequent music concerts and shows in the art gallery. Prominent Indigenous artists-- Karen Savage, Leah Yellowbird, Rabbett Strickland, Jonathan Thunder, Ivy Vaino and Steve Premo--- have displayed their work in the gallery, office space, and hallways of AICHO.
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