Homelessness among Indigenous peoples in Canada: The impacts of child welfare involvement and educational achievement

The premise of this paper is that Indigenous Peoples are multiplicatively oppressed and that these intersecting sites of oppression increase the risk of Indigenous Peoples in Canada becoming homeless. Hypotheses were tested using the 2014 panel of Canada’s General Social Survey, including 1081 Indigenous peoples and 23,052 non-Indigenous white participants. Indigenous identity, involvement in the child welfare system, and level of educational achievement were all significantly associated with experiences of hidden and visible homelessness, p < .001.

As hypothesized, the odds associated with being involved in the child welfare system (odds ratio [OR] = 4.15) were stronger than that associated with identifying as Indigenous (OR = 1.47). As predicted, achieving a university education served as a protection against becoming homeless (OR = 0.27). The hypothesized relationship between ethnicity and child welfare system involvement interaction was not observed. However, Indigenous participants (7.1%) were nearly four times as likely to have been involved with the child welfare system than were non-Indigenous white people (1.9%). Thus, at the population level, Indigenous Peoples are at far greater risk of having been involved in the child welfare system and consequently experiencing homelessness than non-Indigenous peoples. Of note, the hypothesized ethnicity by educational attainment interaction was observed. Among white people in Canada, a university education likely prevents most (83%) of visible homelessness otherwise experienced by those who did not complete high school (OR = 0.17) and pre-vents a significant amount (18%) of hidden homelessness. Startlingly, no such prevention was associated with completion of university among Indigenous peoples in Canada. Implications and future research needs are discussed.

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Children and Youth Services Review