Theme 4: Enhancing outcomes for INDIGENOUS YOUTH

Indigenous Peoples face multiple barriers in accessing housing that is safe, affordable, and appropriate. Stewart and others identify a range of housing barriers, including “poverty, lack of access to culturally appropriate social services and housing, literacy issues, discrimination, addiction, mental health problems, and intergenerational trauma resulting from experiences with residential schools and the child welfare system. Systemic racism affects access to housing and supports”.

The Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada contends that for Indigenous Peoples, homelessness is much more than a lack of a house, but rather speaks to the undermining of the cultural value and practice of ‘All My Relations’ (connection and unity to all things, including culture, land, and people), and importantly isolation from “relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities.” For Indigenous youth, homelessness solutions are about more than accessing housing and necessarily should include attending to well-being, cultural connection, and healing.

MtS makes a commitment to embedding Indigenous needs and issues throughout its work, and by approaching this theme holistically throughout all MtS projects as led by Indigenous researchers, with support from multiple Indigenous community partners at the local, regional, and national levels.

Research sub-themes

4.1 On Reserve Supports for Indigenous Youth who are Homeless or At-risk

We do know that the history of colonization has left many reserve communities with poor quality and inadequate housing, extreme poverty, limited access to important resources including clean drinking water, inadequate education, and limited employment opportunities. This research sub-theme explores effective ways to enhance family and natural supports  on reserve (and reduce apprehension by child welfare authorities), create pathways for education, and address mental health and addictions through healing.

4.2 Supporting Better Transitions from Rural and Remote Communities to Urban Settings

Because of the conditions described above, it is not uncommon for Indigenous youth living on reserves or in Northern communities to migrate to urban areas in the hopes of education, and finding better economic opportunities and prosperity. Adjusting to the urban environment can be challenging in the face of racism, stigma and inadequate education, putting Indigenous youth at a disadvantage in obtaining employment and housing in an already challenging market.  This sub-theme explores the need for services and supports that engage Indigenous youth, supporting cultural connection and healing.

4.3 Cultural Recognition and Engagement with Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and separation from family and community can present Indigenous youth with a sense of dislocation and alienation from their culture and ways of knowing, a condition that can be exacerbated by homelessness. Engaging with Indigenous culture, communities, and practices are important for healing among Indigenous youth.  Our research will focus on how to do more effective work in this area.

4.4 Implementation of TRC Recommendations with a View to Youth Homelessness

After six years of documenting the history and impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) concluded that the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide. Ninety-four “Calls to Action”  were included in the final report regarding the reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples. The task for those who support an end to youth homelessness is to make truth and reconciliation real and tangible by responding to the Calls to Action. This theme will explore these possibilities, including the role of Indigenous youth, while also ensuring that the work across all theme areas is conducted in alignment with the TRC Calls to Action.