In September 2014, the Aboriginal Homelessness Advisory Board (AHAB) and the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation (PMHC) commissioned a project to better understand Indigenous homelessness in Saskatchewan.
The objective of this project was to provide a better understanding of Indigenous homelessness in Saskatchewan and identify the gaps in services for homeless individuals and their families.
Specifically, the project aims to identify:
- What agencies, service organizations, and other resources exist;
- Where they are located;
- The types of resources for homelessness they provide;
- What data currently exists to help determine the size and make‐up of homeless populations; and
- Where gaps in programming exist.
Eleven communities across Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba (Flin Flon) were visited (Figure 1).
This project took a regional approach to scanning the province to provide a picture of homelessness for Saskatchewan. It was found that the different areas of the province are all unique, and strategies to combat homelessness must be tailored to the local context. “One-size-fits-all” approaches are likely to be less effective.
There were several themes that emerged through the process.
1. Saskatchewan is filled with hardworking service providers.
2. Definitions of homelessness can be a barrier to addressing real needs in communities.
3. An adequate supply of safe housing is universally reported as a gap.
4. More understanding of culturally appropriate housing is needed.
5. Cultural competence and Indigenous-run organizations are important.
6. Mental health and addictions are key factors in homelessness.
7. Determining the extent of homeless populations is a challenge in many parts of the province.
9. Housing First may require tailored approaches in rural and remote areas.
10. The geography of Saskatchewan can be a factor in homelessness.
11. More research is needed to understand patterns of mobility.
12. Jurisdictional issues are a factor in homelessness.
13. There is a gap in emergency shelters specifically for men.
14. There is a gap in transitional housing.
15. There is a gap in in housing for single people.
Housing and Healing First
One of the most prominent of the themes that stood out is the topic of mental health and addictions. Service providers pointed to the fact that poor mental health and addictions (and low levels of wellness in general) can be linked to a host of other factors that also influence homelessness. These include a lack of housing, housing in poor condition, and overcrowded housing; intergenerational trauma; and the cycle of poverty.
In terms of housing, mental health, addictions, and wellness in general, an example of policy to consider for the HPS Non-Designated funding stream would be to support initiatives that promote a “housing and healing first” model, as shown here:
The Saskatchewan Non-Designated Aboriginal Homelessness funding stream supports initiatives that provide both housing and wellness, with the goal of ensuring housing solutions work in tandem with culturally relevant healing and wellness supports.
The term “wellness” is used here because it can represent a variety of healing supports, including mental health and addictions.
Related areas of funding support could include:
- Initiatives that partner housing development with service providers, including wellness agencies that are able to access external sources of funding (i.e. collaborations with Ministries such as Social Services or Justice); and
- Initiatives that support capacity-building for wellness supports in communities (such as ensuring agencies and trained workers exist that can partner and provide culturally relevant wellness supports)
Governance to Support “Housing and Healing First” models: Aboriginal Homelessness Advisory Board
In light of the goals for combining housing and wellness supports, shown above, the report recommended that AHAB consider seeking out board members with service provision and wellness experience, in addition to those with expertise in housing development.
 PMHC. AHAB. March 2015. Environmental Scan: Aboriginal Homelessness in Saskatchewan, Off-Reserve and Outside Saskatoon and Regina. Prairie Wild Consulting. http://pmhc.ca/resources/
This research is part of this year's National Conference on Ending Homelessness. For program details, see conference.caeh.ca.
This blog is based on a revised version of the project summary found in the full report - PMHC. AHAB. March 2015. Environmental Scan: Aboriginal Homelessness in Saskatchewan, Off-Reserve and Outside Saskatoon and Regina. Prairie Wild Consulting. http://pmhc.ca/resources/