24 November 2017

When he read the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness’s definition of homelessness, 2016 scholar Jesse Thistle, who is Metis-Cree from North Saskatchewan, knew immediately that it didn’t reflect what he had experienced and what other Indigenous people had told him. So, he set out to define Indigenous homelessness from an Indigenous perspective. That definition, announced end-October by the Canadian Observatory, is not the state of being without a physical home, but the state of being without one’s relations, of living without a meaningful sense of home and identity. The definition has twelve dimensions:

  1. Historic Displacement Homelessness
  2. Contemporary Geographic Separation Homelessness
  3. Spiritual Disconnection Homelessness
  4. Mental Disruption and Imbalance Homelessness
  5. Cultural Disintegration and Loss Homelessness
  6. Overcrowding Homelessness
  7. Relocation and Mobility Homelessness
  8. Going Home Homelessness
  9. Nowhere to Go Homelessness
  10. Escaping or Evading Harm Homelessness
  11. Emergency Crisis Homelessness
  12. Climatic Refugee Homelessness

Jesse now works with doctors at the St-Mary’s hospital in Montreal to apply this definition to their patients.

Read the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness’s definition of Indigenous homelessness
Read Jesse’s interview on CBC

Jesse Thistle

Jesse Thistle (history, York University) is studying the lives of Metis people living on road allowances – makeshift communities built on Crown land along roads and railways on the Canadian Prairies in the 20th century.

2016 Scholars