Empowering culture key to solving Indigenous homelessness, says national conference
- EFN Staff | October 29, 2017
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) says solving Indigenous homelessness requires empowering Indigenous cultures, perspectives and knowledge, according to the Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada. It was unveiled at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Winnipeg on October 26th.
“Indigenous homelessness is not just lacking a place to live,” said 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 places intergenerational trauma, cultural genocide, racism and discrimination, and systemic barriers faced by Indigenous Peoples as the drivers of Indigenous Homelessness. According to the definition, Indigenous Homelessness differs from the Canadian Definition of Homelessness of simply being unhoused or at risk of being unhoused. The Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada was created by consulting various Indigenous scholars, Elders and knowledge keepers, front-line workers and community members across Canada.
Thistle turned to Indigenous Peoples who work with or who’ve experienced homelessness, to empower their knowledge and compile it into the definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada.
There are 12 dimensions of Indigenous Homelessness, which includes Historic Displacement Homelessness, Spiritual Disconnection Homelessness, Cultural Disintegration and Loss Homelessness to name a few. These dimensions are layers that show the severity of an Indigenous person’s homelessness, which can be adapted to design better culturally-specific programs for servicing those experiencing homelessness.
“With 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,” said Thistle in a media release.
The Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada is a ground-breaking work that was created by Indigenous Peoples for Indigenous Peoples. This knowledge will be shared amongst Indigenous communities across Canada to help educate the broader Canadian society and assist to re-orient perspectives of Indigenous homelessness.