Indigenous homelessness is a critical issue across Canada. Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by homelessness, but there is insufficient data on their housing needs. The 2018 Winnipeg Street Health Survey collected data on the service needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, including Indigenous people. This data however, has not yet been fully analyzed.
The Housing Needs and Preferences of Indigenous People project will analyze this data as the starting point for its work. The analyzed data will increase understanding of the health and social conditions of Indigenous people and their experiences with homelessness. This will inform efforts to develop evidence-based, culturally suitable housing types for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness in an urban centre.
3 Key Goals
Investigate reasons of homelessness amongst Indigenous people in Winnipeg and their barriers to accessing housing.
Create an expanded network of relationships between different individuals and agencies within the Indigenous housing sector in Winnipeg.
Develop evidence-based, culturally informed housing types for Indigenous people experiencing urban homelessness.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Understanding the cultural suitability of housing
The 2018 Winnipeg Street Health Survey report highlighted many aspects of Indigenous homelessness. 70% of survey respondents experiencing homelessness identified as Indigenous, even though only 18% of Winnipeg’s population is Indigenous. Indigenous people experiencing homelessness were less likely to stay in shelters and more likely to be living in an unsheltered situation. They also experienced longer periods of homelessness than non-Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.
Indigenous homelessness in Winnipeg reflects more than just a simple lack of affordable low-barrier housing, however. It is also related to the cultural suitability of housing. Key Indigenous concepts of home are rarely measured in research surveys. These may include mental, spiritual, cultural, historical and geographical dimensions. A better understanding of Indigenous housing needs is required before Indigenous homelessness can be effectively addressed.
Improving relationships and deepening understanding
The project will use quantitative, qualitative and arts-based research to develop models of suitable urban housing for Indigenous people. With funding from the National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund, it seeks to discover the:
- reasons for homelessness among Indigenous people and their barriers to accessing housing
- health and social conditions that impact the housing needs of Indigenous people experiencing homelessness
- housing needs and preferences of Indigenous people
Another goal of the research is to create an expanded network of relationships between different individuals and sectors. These include housing development and homeless-serving sectors, academics, Indigenous individuals and organizations and individuals with lived experience of homelessness. These improved relationships and deepened understanding should result in concrete progress toward housing solutions.
Investigating with an Indigenous lens
The project will follow an engagement model, which seeks to understand a person’s needs by engaging them in discussion. Structurally, the project will follow a sequential mixed-method design across 2 phases. Participant feedback will be incorporated into the process and all stages will be guided by an Indigenous Advisory Committee. This committee will include members with lived experience of homelessness and an Elder.
- Phase 1 will analyze quantitative data from the 2018 Winnipeg Street Health Survey, looking specifically at information relevant to Indigenous homelessness. This phase attempts to discover the social and health conditions that contribute to experiences of homelessness among Indigenous people.
- Phase 2 will collect qualitative information on Indigenous housing needs through Indigenous and arts-based approaches. This phase attempts to learn about the housing needs and preferences of Indigenous people. In some cases, these interviews will have to be done over the phone rather than in person, because of COVID.
After validating research with participants, the final research will be presented in a written report. It also will be shared through community gatherings, where possible.
Building knowledge and understanding toward real-world solutions
The final report and related concept drawings and architectural renderings will be of interest to policy makers and affordable housing providers in Winnipeg. A series of organizations already plan to apply the research in their work. This includes the Indigenous community, service providers, government, and those involved in developing, designing and building housing. The improved understanding of Indigenous housing needs should also apply to other Canadian cities with Indigenous populations.
The relationships created by the research process are also valuable. These stronger relationships between homeless-serving organizations and the housing sector are prerequisites for creating effective solutions for Indigenous housing in Winnipeg.