Friday May 27th 2022

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Anishinabe III: Addressing Homelessness and The Opioid Epidemic

By Tina Monje

Anishinabe III, a new supportive housing building at 16th and Franklin Avenues, opened in December 2021.
Photo credit: Tina Monje

In December of 2021, The American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC) opened the doors of Anishinabe III, another permanent supportive housing building added to their roster. Built over the summer of 2021, this four story building on Franklin Avenue sits between the American Indian Center and the Hiawatha overpass, right across the street from the long fenced-off Wall of Forgotten Natives, on what used to be the Anishinabe Campus lawn. Nearly 30 years after the first inception of AICDC as an Indigenous-led task force, this building stands as a testament to the Corporation’s commitment to ever-evolving needs of their neighborhood and their relatives.

Travis Earth-Werner, AICDC’s Program Project Manager, says this project is a reflection of AICDC’s longtime, core mission to address homeless in the Indigenous community in South Minneapolis. Anishinabe III is their continued response to the growing crisis of inaccessible housing. And like their other buildings, this new project does more than address housing. Their programs address the unique issues that arise for Indigenous people from the legacies of colonization at the intersection of healthcare and housing.

Anishinabe III is an expansion of the Anishinabe Campus, the first building of which opened in 1996. Anishinabe Wakiagun, “The People’s Home” in Ojibwe, was AICDC’s first housing development project. It has 45 single room occupancy units dedicated to Indigenous adults living with chronic inebriation statuses – those who have a high rate of detox center usage, those living with permanent health effects of alcohol use, and those who continue to use alcohol, etc. AICDC expanded the Wakiagun building and their services, and in 2016 opened Anishinabe Bii Gii Wiin, “People Come Home” in Ojibwe, which offers 30 single room occupancy units to Indigenous people whose goal involves sobriety and sober/chemical free housing.

Earth-Werner says that “back then, it was alcohol – and today, it’s drug use.” Referring to the absence of accessible and non-stigmatizing healthcare and housing systems, AICDC Lead Case Manager Autumn Dillie says that “whatever we’re doing is either not enough, or just not working.” Despite representing just over one percent of Minnesota’s total population, Native Americans are affected by the opioid use and overdose epidemic at higher rates than any other racial group. Minnesota is one of the country’s leaders when it comes to opioid death disparities. So, while the new building is open to unhoused Indigenous people living with general chemical health and mental health concerns, preference goes to those struggling with opioid use.

As with their other facilities, Anishinabe III will utilize a housing-first, harm reduction model to help stabilize people wherever they are in their journey, whether or not that involves treatment and abstinence. Residents are admitted by referral, either through the Hennepin County Coordinated Entry System (CES), or through the Diversion and Recovery Team (DART). Since opening, 18 of the 40 single room occupancy units have been filled. Residents will receive case management services, access to naloxone (i.e., Narcan) and safer-use supplies, access to AICDC staff therapists, and referrals to area services, including medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs and other health resources.

When asked what other needs she sees in the South Minneapolis Indigenous community, Dillie points to housing. “We need more housing,” she says, and “more affordable housing.” She also sees a need for more overall support: case management, transitional programs that assist youth and adults on a path towards education and employment, more culturally specific suboxone and methadone programs, and, referencing a naloxone shortage she sees every year, greater access to the life-saving overdose reversal drug that is regularly used by outreach workers and healthcare providers, but used mostly by people who use drugs. 

Earth-Werner also sees a need for more chemical health treatment programs offered in the metropolitan by and to Indigenous people. When asked what projects are coming next for AICDC, Earth-Werner offers the potential for Indigenous treatment programs. For now, Anishinabe III, in addition to all other AICDC housing development projects, paves a unique, integrative, and culturally-specific path into the future of addressing chronic homelessness. 

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