One House Many Nations: A Community First Approach to Address Homelessness Among First Nation Youth

Alex Wilson, Professor and Academic Director, Department of Educational Foundations and the Aboriginal Education Research Centre, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan

Jason Surkan, SOLO Architecture and project coordinator

What is this research about?

This research project was developed by the One House Many Nations (O H M N ) interdisciplinary research team and its First Nation community partners to develop an innovative community-first land-centered approach to the overrepresentation of First Nation youth in the homeless population.

This approach focused on having youth who are living on-reserve and are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness join a team that designs and builds new homes in their community, gaining new skills, experiences and relationships in the process.

This approach can be adapted or rescaled for use in other First Nations, and in addition to providing an economically and environmentally sustaining solution to the shortage of housing on-reserves, it is designed to build capacity of both the community and individual First Nation youth to prevent and sustain exits from homelessness.

Why was this research needed?

The current housing model does not provide healthy, sustainable, and culturally appropriate housing for First Nations people living on reserve. In addition, there is a massive housing shor-tage on reserve and Band Members remain on waiting lists for years to get into a home. This especially impacts youth and puts them at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers took an on-the-ground approach to housing, working directly in the community. The research team collaborated with youth who were living on-reserve with lived experience or who were at risk of homelessness to help guide and support this project including by delivering community workshops on home design and construction.

What did the researchers find?


Research Focus


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

The research team partnered with Nutana Collegiate to build three homes for homeless youth living in the Big River First Nation. A fourth home is currently in production. This project has continued to evolve and a number of other important projects have been completed during the project grant period including the Muskrat Hut, Universal Utility Core, Mobile Design and Construction Lab, and an exhibition as part of the c/a/n/a/d/a Pavillion at the Venice Biennale showcasing a project titled: First Nations Home Building Lodges.

How can you use this research?

This community-centered research can be adapted for other First Nations communities and can be used as an option to address the shortage of housing in Indigenous communities. By building capacity of both the community and individual First Nation Youth, this project hopes to rebuild supply chains, knowledge of housing construction, and housing autonomy within First Nations.