STTARS Indigenous Safe Housing Center Partners With Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights to Develop a Tribal Safe Housing Code Clearinghouse
Highlighting Best Practices for Relations with Non-Native Organizations and the Critical Need for Safe Housing For Indigenous Survivors of Gender-Based Violence
The STTARS Indigenous Safe Housing Center, a newly launched project of NIWRC, has strategically developed a critical partnership with the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights (CLIHHR) to implement the Tribal Housing Code Clearinghouse—one of the center’s key projects.
“The vision of the STTARS Indigenous Safe Housing Center is ‘Safe Housing for All our Relatives.’ We take that to mean that housing is not a conditional right, but rather a human right. Taking it even further, a right that is inherent in non-human relatives as well,” said Caroline LaPorte (Immediate Descendant of the Little River Band Of Ottawa Indians), Director, STTARS Indigenous Safe Housing Center. “We do this work from that framing, and as such, it was essential for us to find a partner who approached their work with a similar set of foundational values.”
CLIHHR conducts research and provides legal assistance through its “action arm”—the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention (HRAP Clinic). The HRAP Clinic acts as a pro bono law firm consisting of law students who engage with human rights projects all over the world under the supervision of Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, the Clinic’s director. Two students, Sheryl Wallin and Brett Jones studied the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis and the ways that modern violence against Indigenous people is a direct and intended result of unresolved and ongoing historical violence.
“CLIHHR’s mission and their demonstrated work showed that they had an exceptional commitment to equity and that as a non-Native organization, they had the capacity to support, rather than supplant our work,” LaPorte said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Professor Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum and her amazing students for a while now, and Brett and Sheryl are no exception.”
More specifically, in the past year, the students of the HRAP Clinic have been working with STTARS on the Tribal Housing Code Clearinghouse, which is shaping up to be a massive project. The goal of this Clearinghouse is to better understand how Tribal and federal law and policy affect the ability of Indigenous survivors of gender-based violence to access, maintain, and sustain safe housing and shelter.
"The lack of safe, available, accessible, and affordable housing for Indigenous survivors of domestic violence is one of the most critical factors, as they weigh the risks of leaving or staying, as they work to keep themselves, their children, and their pets safe,” said Gwendolyn Packard (Ihanktonwan Dakota), Senior Housing Specialist. “We must work to create more comprehensive housing solutions for all survivors; safety and self-sufficiency for survivors should not be unreasonable expectations."
“The lack of safe, available, accessible, and affordable housing for Indigenous survivors of domestic violence is one of the most critical factors, as they weigh the risks of leaving or staying, as they work to keep themselves, their children, and their pets safe.”
––Gwendolyn Packard, Ihanktonwan Dakota, Senior Housing Specialist
This partnership has developed organically over the years, and in the past five months, the partnership has been hard at work locating, analyzing, and developing a database of Tribal housing codes and related ordinances and regulations.
The students have been instrumental in helping STTARS collect the housing codes of the 574 federally recognized Tribes, and assisting staff in analyzing thematic legal responses to homelessness and housing instability, which often impact Indigenous gender-based violence survivors uniquely and disproportionately. The amount of time, resources, and expertise that is needed to handle a project like this, especially as a new center, is not met without partnerships like this one. It goes without saying that working with non-Indigenous partners takes investment from Native-led organizations too. The HRAP Clinic’s students have dedicated serious time and personal commitment to learning about the complex legal landscape impacting Indigenous peoples and have begun to fully understand the restraints imposed on Tribal communities through hundreds of years of genocide and colonization.
"The fact that our system of justice has let thousands of our neighbors, sisters, mothers, and elders suffer in silence or disappear without acknowledgment undermines the safety of everyone living in this country,” said Sheryl Wallin. “But in an attempt to help our Indigenous brothers and sisters, it’s possible for us non-Indigenous allies to act in a way that we think is right, rather than to ask our brothers and sisters what they need in the face of both immediate and generational losses. But that is the issue; we cannot do this work as allies. We must do it as kin, where we center the voices, acknowledge the lived experiences, and work to support the advocacy of Indigenous people. We are realizing that kinship requires an enormous amount of trust. It has required us to humble ourselves enough to do our own internal development, and that the internal work is very much ongoing.”
As part of this work, which will be ongoing throughout the life of STTARS, we are hoping that others will join us in contributing. If you have a housing code or ordinance or regulation that impacts housing access, stability, and survivor safety, we would love to work with you. In that vein, STTARS and the HRAP Clinic have created a form so supporters can submit information for this Clearinghouse to help create a useful tool for our communities. Access the form here: https://n8ve.net/vcjuY
If you need any help completing this form, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"If we hope to remove the restraints of existing systems and develop a more compassionate legal landscape, we as lawyers need to go further than research and analysis,” said Brett Jones. “Human rights lawyers have to do more than just bring lawsuits or draft statutes, we need to make the issues as real and immediate to others as they are for the people directly affected. We must inform our families, friends, supervisors, institutional leaders, local officials, national figures, and our governmental representatives about the issue. We must teach others to humble themselves, to question the status quo, and to embody kinship and relational values. We must rethink what legal empowerment and legal tools are, and then we must shift our work away from inherently problematic western systems. We have to acknowledge that these systems, which non-Indigenous people benefit from, were intended to harm Indigenous people. The solutions cannot come from western spaces of thinking and existing. These systems supplant Indigenous ones and are therefore not redeemable."
Support Tribal Housing Code Clearinghouse
If you have a housing code or ordinance or regulation that impacts housing access, stability, and survivor safety, submit information to our Clearinghouse. Access the form here: n8ve.net/vcjuY
For questions about the Tribal Housing Code Clearinghouse, contact email@example.com.