Summary

We began this chapter by identifying ourselves as non-Indigenous persons. As such, we tried to approach writing as a humble learning exercise. At the start of the chapter, we introduced you to the composite character Joseph as an entry point into thinking about the complexity of Indigenous homelessness. We returned to his story again at the end to demonstrate how it can help us understand the foundational concepts of being trauma-informed, person-centred, socially inclusive, and situated within the social determinants of health as critical for developing a better understanding of Indigenous homelessness in Canada.

 

We then asked you to consider three questions along the way, with the guidance of leading homelessness researchers. We recognize that although many of the people we spoke to engage regularly (and respectfully) with Indigenous research, most do not identify as Indigenous. For this reason, we included more additional materials than in other chapters to open a space for us all to listen and learn from Indigenous perspectives.

 

First we asked, ‚ÄúIs Indigenous homelessness defined differently than settler homelessness?‚ÄĚ Here we saw that although our question was wrong ‚Äď set against the comparison of settler homelessness ‚Äď the intention was right. We learned that there are indeed many unique aspects to Indigenous homelessness, rooted in the loss of home and land. We asked you to read the highly cited Indigenous Definition of Homelessness in Canada, produced by Jesse Thistle (2017) to learn about the 12 dimensions. We concluded this section by considering the loss of land and culture that exist today tied to climate change and its disproportionate effects on northern Indigenous communities and livelihoods.

 

Next we asked, ‚ÄúHow are the causes of Indigenous homelessness rooted in on-going colonizing practices?‚ÄĚ This led us to reflect upon how homelessness was created by settlers, resulting from colonization. Through the creation of Reserves, Indigenous people have been displaced from their land and experience housing precarity today. The governing powers that implemented colonial rule are still evident today in the Indian Act and the over-representation of Indigenous people in institutions, like prisons and child welfare. There are many Indigenous people who leave the Reserves or age out of state care and become homeless in major urban centres. These cities have a responsibility to provide Indigenous supports, with the risk of causing further harm and homelessness if these services are not in place.

 

Finally, we asked, ‚ÄúHow can we begin to decolonize society and decrease Indigenous homelessness?‚ÄĚ In this final section, we looked at some of the inspiring projects currently being led by Indigenous people. It should be noted that the ‚Äúwe‚ÄĚ in the question is included with full recognition that settlers have a supporting role, and must be willing to listen, learn, and change, but that any change that occurs must be led by Indigenous peoples. We saw throughout this section that there are many places to start ‚Äď the land, with representation, dismantling racism, and establishing supports for Indigenous youth to reconnect with Elders are just a few. There are many hard truths that arose through this chapter. Although we know this chapter was simply a brief overview of Indigenous homelessness, we hope that you will continue to learn along with us and support the work towards decolonization in Canada.

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Understanding Homelessness in Canada Copyright © 2022 by Kristy Buccieri, James Davy, Cyndi Gilmer, and Nicole Whitmore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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