Indigenous people in Canada are over-represented in the population of people experiencing homelessness. A lack of adequate housing contributes to this situation. The Indigenous Housing Caucus of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association has prepared a plan to add more.
The Indigenous Caucus is well qualified to prepare the plan. Its members have been developing and managing off reserve housing1 for Indigenous people since 1972. Their plan would close a significant gap in Canada’s National Housing Strategy (Canada’s NHS), which was approved in 2017.
Canada’s NHS committed to reducing homelessness by 50% by 2027. In their plan, Canada’s NHS did not talk about ways to lower levels of Indigenous homelessness specifically, even though the proportion of Indigenous people who are homeless in some communities is as high as 70%. COVID-19 has underscored the importance of adequate housing as a defense against the pandemic. This year’s throne speech included a new commitment to end homelessness by 2030. The Indigenous Caucus’s program will help to fulfill that commitment.
With the new intention to end homelessness, other parts of Canada’s NHS will need to change as well. Specifically, more housing will be needed that is affordable for the people who are leaving homelessness and to prevent homelessness from happening in the future. The Indigenous Caucus’s plan includes adding housing units off reserve where 80% of Indigenous people live.
The Indigenous Caucus’s plan includes provisions to continue to manage existing stock, as well as developing new housing. These provisions will assemble the Indigenous housing supply in one management framework that would span the country. Individual housing providers would become part of this larger group, which reduces the risks and costs of individual operation. This larger group framework will lower costs for financing construction and repairs and to make bulk purchases.
The framework also includes provisions to provide supports to sustain the residents. These will help to assist in recovering from the impacts of colonialism, the residential school system and other practices which contribute to homelessness. The supports are also a specific opportunity to assist Indigenous women and their families, who make up the majority of the tenants in housing operated by Indigenous providers.2
The Indigenous Caucus’s plan will be interesting to anyone in Canada who is looking for ways to strengthen the National Housing Strategy and for people who want to reverse the colonial legacy that contributes to high levels of homelessness among First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
For people outside Canada, the Indigenous Caucus’s plan suggests ways to overcome barriers, including systemic segregation and discrimination, that are commonly faced by minority populations.
Read more about the CHRA Indigenous Caucus’s proposal: Let’s close the housing gap.
- Off reserve refers to urban, rural and remote communities that are not on reserve land.
- It should be noted that the Indigenous caucus’s plan is intended to support a diversity of peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Reclaiming Power and Place, the report of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, relates reports about more than 2,000 Indigenous women who are missing or known to been murdered. Housing conditions are often a factor. For more on this, try: Canada’s National Inquiry Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women