Definition of Indigenous Homelessness
Jesse Thistle, an Indigenous Scholar currently pursuing his PhD at York University, has given us a more comprehensive view of what homelessness means through the Indigenous lens. His work defines it as follows…
“Indigenous homelessness is a human condition that describes First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities lacking stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means or ability to acquire such housing. Unlike the common colonialist defnition of homelessness, Indigenous homelessness is not defined as lacking a structure of habitation; rather, it is more fully described and understood through a composite lens of Indigenous worldviews. These include: individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities. Importantly, Indigenous people experiencing these kinds of homelessness cannot culturally, spiritually, emotionally or physically reconnect with their Indigeneity or lost relationships.”
While solutions to homelessness are often seen through the lens of colonialism and a one size fits all approach, we’ve learned that the Indigenous experience is unique. Homelessness is not only about housing for Indigenous people, but also loss of connection to family, community and identity. Indigenous spirituality and connection to the land is an important piece of the conversation which is often overlooked in general discussion surrounding homelessness. Indigenous homelessness is complex and deserves a more thoughtful approach than given in the past. Thistle’s work is important because it re-orients our vision, helping us to approach the issue of homelessness through the Indigenous lens, offering a more holistic approach.