Finding The Path To Belonging

path through forest
And the Trees Guarded the Path photo by Landon Monday is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
A report from Calgary that speaks about cultural practices as a path from homelessness.

Researchers based at Calgary’s Elizabeth Fry Society have completed a report about how indigenous elders and knowledge keepers help people to forge paths to leave homelessness. The report focusses on cultural and spiritual practices and how they support people who have had traumatic experiences.1 It also identifies when and how it is appropriate to engage these practices.

The information was collected over the course of a year. Meetings were convened to discuss ending homelessness, finding and keeping housing, and case management.

Seven elders and knowledge keepers participated. Researchers attended the meetings and recorded and compiled the discussions. They also checked back with the meeting participants to verify accuracy.

The report also includes a glossary for readers who may be unfamiliar with titles such as knowledge keeper and elder.

Why is this report important?

This work gives guidance about how indigenous elders and knowledge keepers can be effective here in Canada, where our indigenous neighbours are over-represented in the homeless population. The advice and thinking are organized particularly to support indigenous people. It may also be useful in other countries where indigenous people are homeless.

By focussing on assistance to indigenous populations, this report also suggests an area for further investigation: how can social and cultural practices contribute to housing and homelessness programs more generally?

For people advancing an agenda of public support for non-market housing, this report discusses some of the benefits that come with providing space for community activities in housing developments.

The report is available on line at: Elders & Knowledge Keepers Circles


  1. Examples include witnessing or experiencing violence, discriminatory practices by health providers, police, and other persons in authority. It is not unusual for one person to have multiple traumatic experiences.