"Everything You Want is There": The Place of the Reserve in First Nations' Homeless Mobility

This study examines the role of rural reserves in the mobility strategies of First Nations homeless participants, who were interviewed in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a town in Canada's central prairie province. Although increasing attention is being paid to homelessness in rural areas, existing geographic work on homeless mobility has provided little in the way of a framework for identifying the paths homeless people take through different urban and rural places. Reserves are places where First Nations (indigenous) people have unique rights and/or residency. Created through colonial legislation, the expectation was that reserves would disappear as First Nations people were assimilated. However, colonialism shaped reserves as places of poverty, poor housing, and economic disadvantage, but they also became places where First Nations experienced family connections and where they had some special rights. Our research showed that many First Nations people interviewed in the city had reserves as origins or destinations in their mobility paths in the year and a half prior to the interview. Circumstances on reserves led individuals to move elsewhere, but lack of resources and the desire to maintain social connections led them back. The results show the ongoing effects of colonial history on homeless people's lives. They also indicate the importance of studying the geographic pattern and scale of homeless individuals' mobility patterns.

Publication Date: 
August 19, 2009
Journal Name: 
Urban Geography
Prince Albert, SK, Canada