Links Between Colonization and Indigenous Urban Homelessness

In 2010, Homeward Trust Edmonton engaged Blue Quills First Nations College (now University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills) and IRM Research and Evaluation Inc. to conduct a research project to better understand the perspectives of Aboriginal clients in Edmonton’s Housing First program, which provides housing and support services to homeless people. The research was subsequently adapted into a play, to share the participants’ verbatim stories with diverse audiences.

The report Perspectives on the Housing First Program with Indigenous Participants (Homeward Trust, 2011) noted that: Homelessness in the Aboriginal community is complex and multi-dimensional; the social determinants that contribute to homelessness such as poverty, addiction, mental health, and social justice issues are well-documented. Existing models of housing support services that combine intervention with the provision of safe, affordable, and appropriate housing often do not adequately deal with core needs associated with the negative consequences of colonization, including the intergenerational trauma from Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and other hallmarks of systemic marginalization and oppression of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. One of the recommendations from the report was for Homeward Trust to commission research pertaining to intergenerational trauma, Indigenous identity, and colonization issues in relation to Aboriginal homelessness in Edmonton.

In response to the recommendations of the Perspectives on the Housing First Program with Indigenous Participants report, Homeward Trust Edmonton prioritized outsourcing an individual or team to conduct a research project to explore the following questions:

  • What connections are evident between Aboriginal experiences in residential schools, child protection, or other forms of colonial oppression and experiences of homelessness? Is there a correlation between risk factors for homelessness and the intergenerational trauma of various policies of colonial oppression?
  • For Aboriginal individuals who have been or are homeless, how is their sense of identity and connection with their heritage impacted by their experiences (directly or indirectly) with residential schools or child protection?
  • What supports or services are suggested as promising practices for overcoming the intergenerational trauma of residential schools and other forms of colonial oppression, in relation to homelessness?
  • What life factors or experiences appear to mitigate or override the impacts of intergenerational trauma from residential schools and child protection systems, and decrease the likelihood of homelessness?