Knowledge Sharing by First Nations and Métis Homeless People in Saskatoon

Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre, in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan (2009)

Knowledge Sharing by First Nations and Métis Homeless People in Saskatoon investigates Aboriginal homelessness in Saskatoon to address the knowledge gaps related to homelessness in this region.

Who is involved in this study?

44 Aboriginal people who are homeless in Saskatoon and who regularly visited the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre.

What issues are they facing?

  • 10% had no source of income, and half had an income of less than $5,000/year.

  • About 2/3 of the clients received most of their income through social assistance.

  • Almost all the clients considered themselves to be single yet many also had families—22 clients had 57 children between them. There is no way of knowing whether the children’s needs were being met.

  • 52-76% suffered from addictions.

How was the study done?

Interviews and talking circles with the 44 homeless clients, and dialogue with service providers and policy makers.

What does “homeless” mean for this population?

  • Sleeping outside (reported by men only).

  • Staying in abandoned buildings.

  • Staying in unsafe circumstances— for example, needing to sleep with a knife for fear of being assaulted.

  • Walking around all night, dozing in ATM‘s for a short time to stay warm, then sleeping a little at various shelters and agencies throughout the day.

  • Sleeping in a shelter at night but having to leave in the day regardless of individual circumstances such as a broken leg or a concussion.

  • Sleeping at friends’ homes for a short period of time.

  • No privacy, particularly in the winter, as clients move from shelters to public areas inside buildings.

What conditions led to homelessness for this population?

Eviction; spin-off effects from addictions; relationship issues; physical impairments and disabilities; violent lifestyle; “partying lifestyle” of self or friends and family; housing is just too expensive; gentrification of their neighbourhoods; and discrimination by landlords.

Reasons that clients did NOT use shelters

Lack of awareness that the shelters existed; clients were uncomfortable staying there – they felt it was more like a prison than a home; and policies that clients had to be drug- and alcohol- free were problematic to those with addiction issues.

What are the movement and mobility patterns of homeless Aboriginal clients in Saskatoon?

  • Women tend not to sleep outside due to safety concerns.

  • Only 16-28% of participants used shelters during the night.

  • Each day in the late afternoon, clients start looking for a place to sleep that night.

  • When staying temporarily with friends or family, clients leave in the morning and come back at bedtime to help reduce tension. They also often pay for these accommodations and try to help out with chores, groceries, etc.

  • Most clients left their home on reserves many years ago. Lack of housing on reserve was not necessarily their primary reason for leaving.

What do clients recommend to reduce homelessness?

  • Lower rent

  • More financial assistance, higher rent subsidies and better support in finding housing

  • More low-income housing that is safe and clean

  • Less discrimination and judgement from landlords

  • More men’s shelters, more shelter beds

  • Easier housing application processes and forms

  • Lower living costs

  • More information about affordable properties and service agencies

  • More access to food vouchers

  • More variety in shelters and programs (beyond soup and sandwiches)

  • Less judgement and blame from service providers and the general public

  • More specific shelter options for families and couples

  • More shower facilities for men

  • More communication between First Nations governments and urban social services

What do service providers recommend to reduce homelessness?

  • More coordination between organizations

  • More showers in men and women’s facilities; create shower vouchers

  • Better service integration through a newspaper or directory

  • Centralized service agency maps posted on the bus depot bulletin board

  • Renovations of abandoned buildings to house some of the homeless people

  • A new and appropriate definition of “affordable”

  • Workshops on understanding ID and credit checks

  • A core neighbourhood social worker

  • More access to transit passes

  • Daycare for clients who are house hunting

  • A clear statement of what services agencies actually provide, so there is no misunderstanding when clients arrive

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