Housing is a human right, but many people in Thunder Bay lack this basic right. According to the last three enumerations of people experiencing homelessness locally, data shows that numbers are not going down, and that there is an epidemic of homelessness. It’s difficult to identify precise numbers because not everyone experiencing homelessness is available to be surveyed at the exact same time. This implies that the enumerations are actually a gross undercount of the real picture of homelessness. Regardless, we know that homelessness is a major concern and that there are many issues surrounding homelessness that need to be acknowledged and addressed.

Indigenous Peoples make up almost 70% of the population experiencing homelessness in Thunder Bay. Homelessness amongst Indigenous Peoples can be traced back to historical trauma, oppression, racism and discrimination. Homelessness amongst Indigenous Peoples should be considered as a consequence resulting from Canada’s history of colonization and exploitation of Indigenous land and populations. Significant abuse and cultural trauma occurred through the use of residential schools to house and educate Indigenous children. Furthermore, the 60’s Scoop – which took Indigenous children and placed them in white foster homes within the child welfare system has led to unstable families and homes.

Many of the personal issues (including familial dysfunction, substance use, addictions, health issues, community violence) faced by Indigenous Peoples and that act as contributors to homelessness can be directly linked to various types of historical trauma.

Structural issues can include transitions from reserves to urban living, racism, landlord discrimination, low levels of education and unemployment. As a result, research has shown that Indigenous populations disproportionately experience lower levels of education, poorer health, higher rates of unemployment and lower income levels compared to non-Indigenous people. This can lead to housing precarity, housing loss and homelessness.

The Lakehead Social Planning Council is continually involved in research and providing resources/services to marginalized populations in Thunder Bay and surrounding areas.