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The definition of Indigenous Homelessness unveiled

The definition of Indigenous Homelessness unveiled

Solving Indigenous homelessness requires empowering Indigenous cultures, perspectives and knowledge, according to the Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada released by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) today.

Indigenous homelessness is not just lacking a place to live, says Jesse Thistle, Resident Scholar on Indigenous Homelessness at the COH, who is also the author of the definition. It is better understood as a lack of healthy social, spiritual, emotional, and personal relationships, known in the Anishinaabe worldview‹All My Relations‹where everything is interrelated.

The Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada, released by the COH, a national research institute on homelessness, was created by consulting various Indigenous scholars, Elders and knowledge keepers, front-line workers and community members across Canada. It will be unveiled at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Winnipeg today.

According to the definition, Indigenous Homelessness does not fit into the Canadian Definition of Homelessness (Unsheltered, Emergency Sheltered, Provisionally Accommodated and At Risk of Homelessness), or simply being unhoused or at risk of being unhoused. Because of this, the author turned to Indigenous Peoples who work with or who¹ve experienced homelessness, to empower their knowledge and compile it into the definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada. The definition situates intergenerational trauma, cultural genocide, racism and discrimination, and systemic barriers faced by Indigenous Peoples as the drivers of Indigenous Homelessness.

More importantly, this definition includes 12 dimensions of Indigenous Homelessness, which includes Historic Displacement Homelessness, Spiritual Disconnection Homelessness, Cultural Disintegration and Loss Homelessness, and more. These dimensions are layers that show the severity of an Indigenous person¹s homelessness, which can be adapted to design better culturally-specific programs for servicing those experiencing homelessness.

³With this, governments and public programs can learn and understand why we need culturally specific Indigenous-led services, in order to combat and heal these various dimensions of Indigenous homelessness,² says Thistle.

The Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada is a groundbreaking work that was created by Indigenous Peoples, for Indigenous Peoples. By sharing the knowledge of Indigenous communities across Canada, and it will help to educate broader Canadian society and help re-orient perspectives of Indigenous homelessness.

Read the full definition at:

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that is committed to conducting and mobilizing research so as to contribute to solutions to homelessness.

Media Contacts:

Jesse Thistle (lead author)
Resident Scholar on Indigenous Homelessness
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness 

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