CALGARY – A partnership between Oxford House and Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centers has sparked a fresh start for Indigenous women seeking help to recover from trauma or addiction.
“It is the first of its kind so it will be a learning curve for everyone,” said Earl Thiessen, Executive Director of Oxford House.
Called the Red Woman House, the house can accommodate four to five women who have all been through difficulties. It will match the men’s house, which opened in December 2019, creating two such accommodations in the city.
The residents were given a red printed cloth, which is displayed near the entrance door.
Officials say this is just one step in making women feel safe and on their way to recovery.
“They take care of the house. The house is theirs,” said Thiessen. “We monitor operations, we want you to feel at home, we want you to feel safe.”
The house officially opened on Sunday, but resident Shannon Little Light has lived there for several days.
It was the chance she needed to live a happy life.
“I’m so far from my addiction that I was sober for five months,” said Little Light. “It gave me a home, it gave me hope, it gave me a home to get my life back.”
Little Light is excited to welcome new residents over the next week and adds that this will be a chance to make connections.
“I know some of them will not have a home and this is a start for them, it was a start for me, it is a start for me,” she said. “I’m on my way back to school, I’m getting my education, I want to help people.”
The house was blessed by Blood Tribe Elder Georgette Fox (Niipoomahkii – Leaf Woman).
Such homes are needed to protect vulnerable indigenous women and girls, according to Fox.
“This one is special for us and a real blessing,” she said.
Officials say this house is a chance for indigenous women to stay true to the culture.
“We want to make sure they are able to connect with female elders,” said Brad Cardinal, general manager of Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centers. “The ladies have the opportunity to practice their culture as they see fit, based on the cultural group they belong to.”
Staff say the home will allow women in the early stages of recovery to thrive spiritually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.