A Sociological Analysis of Root Causes of Aboriginal Homelessness in Sioux Lookout, Ontario

The homeless are visible on the town’s main street, where they often congregate in the park and along the sidewalks to socialize and share alcoholic beverages. The homeless population is often referred to as “problems,” “vagrants,” “lazy” and “drunken Indians” (Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee, 2000). In 2000, The Front Street Improvement Project Committee, a municipally appointed committee, released a discussion paper that was aimed at articulating strategies to address “social and environmental issues,” which included homelessness (Front Street Improvement Project Committee, 2000). Some of the proposed solutions focused on removing the “problem,” which would entail either moving the individuals back to their home communities or moving the liquor store. The Front Street Report (2000) acknowledges that there is an obvious need for community education on the causes of homelessness in Sioux Lookout, and particularly on the causes of Aboriginal homelessness. This research paper is an attempt to generate knowledge and understanding of root causes of Aboriginal homelessness in order to: 1) develop effective relevant policies and programs and 2) move discourse from racism and prejudice to action to address the issues. The language used in order to take up the issue of Aboriginal homelessness must consciously reflect its social and historical context. This is imperative if politicians, policy-makers and program developers are to formulate and implement social policies and programs that will appropriately and effectively challenge the growing incidence of homelessness among Aboriginal people.

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