New Indigenous-led, trauma-informed community support and safety project launches in Osborne Village

A new Indigenous-led community safety project will be hitting the streets in Winnipeg's Osborne Village neighbourhood this week.

Sabe Peace Walkers will lead the Osborne Village BIZ project

People in brightly coloured safety vests gather in an outdoor area.
The Sabe Peace Walkers will be leading a new community support and safety initiative with Osborne Village BIZ. (Submitted by Sabe Peace Walkers)

A new provincially funded pilot project will aim to bring trauma-informed support and safety services to Winnipeg's Osborne Village neighbourhood starting Wednesday.

The project will be led by the Sabe Peace Walkers, a team whose members focus on Indigenous-led non-violent crisis interventions, and use a trauma-informed approach to de-escalation, a Tuesday news release from the Osborne Village Business Improvement Zone said.

"We take into consideration perspectives and potential triggers and trauma and then base everything that we do … on the relationships we're able to establish," Sabe co-founder Daniel Hidalgo said in an interview with CBC's Up to Speed.

The team's members are also provincially licensed in security.

The 17-week pilot is getting $77,000 in funding through Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries' social responsibility program.

Peace walkers will be available five days a week to offer community safe walks and incidental support to the public, residents and businesses in the area.

"The way that we respond is rooted in the fact that we truly care for the people. And we also try to avoid extreme measures. We don't want people to be incarcerated," Hidalgo said.

Much of the work that Sabe does is connected to the traditional seven sacred teachings, which are a set of values and teachings that offer guidance on how to live.

Each teaching is represented by an animal, including "sabe" — Ojibway for the mythological creature that represents honesty.

"The highest demographic of people who are disenfranchised and marginalized are Indigenous," said Hidalgo. "And so for us, it only made sense to utilize their positive teachings and their culture as a way to reach them."

Sabe's peace walkers carry medicines with them, like sage for smudging. 

"I can't tell you how many times I met someone in distress and offered a chance for them to smudge and just, you know, talk a little bit about what they're going through," said Hidalgo.

Osborne Village BIZ executive director Lindsay Somers says the initiative aims to better meet the needs of the community. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Osborne Village BIZ executive director Lindsay Somers sees the pilot project as a way to better meet the community's needs.

"We are seeing a lot of people struggling with mental health and addictions, and what we're doing isn't working," Somers said.

Sabe Peace Walkers go beyond meeting basic needs like shelter, water and food. Sometimes meeting people where they're at means providing them with connection, Hidalgo says.

"Some people just need to vent. Some people need access to their culture, and acceptance of who they are."

Ongoing data will be collected from the peace walkers, community stakeholders and Osborne Village business members to determine next steps after the pilot project comes to an end.

Both Somers and Hidalgo hope to see the project continue beyond the 17-week trial period.