Homeless Services For Indigenous People In Canada Get A Boost

child colouring
Colouring a brighter housing future for Indigenous people in Canada.

A group of researchers in Canada has just issued a guideline for those assisting Indigenous people experiencing homelessness. This assistance is most timely, as Indigenous people are eight times more likely to be homeless than non-Indigenous people. Depending on the city, Indigenous people represent 10%–80% of the homeless population in large urban centres, while comprising less than 5% of the country’s population.

The guideline includes four protocols. The researchers advise against straight adoption of the protocols. Instead, they recommend using the research methods, with appropriate local adaptations, to develop guidelines and protocols for other locations.

The research structure included a project elder, principal investigators, co-investigators and a national advisory council and consisted of 13 people1. Research methods included a literature review, interviews with service providers and people with experience of homelessness in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, transcription and analysis of the literature and interviews, and discussions to create the protocols.

Two resources are currently available from this important research. One is a commentary by the principal investigators about the research process. See in CMAJ: Pekiwewin (Coming Home): Advancing Good Relations With Indigenous People Experiencing Homelessness

The second is a summary of the research and the protocols. See at Well Living House2: Pekiwewin (Coming Home): Clinical Guidelines for Health and Social Service Providers Working with Indigenous People Experiencing Homelessness Executive Summary

Why does this research matter?

First and foremost, Indigenous people who are homeless will have a better experience with homeless services that are organized to include these protocols. The specific protocols will have particular importance in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, where the interviews took place.

The research method paves the way for complementary initiatives in other communities. The research method will also be of interest to non-Indigenous service providers and researchers looking for ways to adapt homeless services to local conditions, in Canada and beyond.


  1. People in the research group include Maria Campbell (Elder), Jesse Thistle and Janet Smylie (Principal Investigators), Nancy Laliberte, Gary Bloch, Andrew Bond, Michelle Firestone (Co-Investigators), Cindy Baskin, Binesi Morrisseau, Suzanne Stewart, Steve Teekens, Senator Ralph Thistle and Eric Weissman (National Advisory Council)
  2. Well Living House is an action research centre, which focusses on the health and well-being of Indigenous infants, children and their families.


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