Intergenerational Trauma and Homeless Aboriginal Men

As an Aboriginal therapist working out of Canada's largest mental health and addiction treatment facility, I have found the prevailing theories on homelessness have failed to provide an adequate explanation for why a growing number of Toronto's homeless service users are people of Aboriginal origin. I work closely with homeless Aboriginal people who struggle daily for survival. Consistently, they report a personal and/or family history of traumatic events that have left an indelible mark on their lives. In many cases, this has resulted in a severing of ties from both birth family and community of origin. This scenario repeats itself among a diverse cohort, with those in their early 20s sharing family histories that reflect the experience of those in their 50s and even 60s.
While theories related to the cause of homelessness are beginning to recognize broader systemic factors such as poverty and lack of housing, little consideration is given to the cumulative impact government policies have had specifically on Aboriginal peoples. There is increasing evidence that more than 140 years of social strategies aimed at the assimilation, segregation, and integration of generations of Aboriginal children into the mainstream, Eurocentric culture have resulted in personal, familial, and community trauma. A brief overview of how public policy has reframed the lives of Aboriginal peoples in Canada is set out below. (abstract from the article. Access to the article is available with subscription to

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Canadian Review of Social Policy
Toronto, ON, Canada