Laurentian University researchers publishing book about homelessness and reconciliation
'Our research has shown that Indigenous people are at great risk', says Carol Kauppi
A team of researchers at Laurentian University is compiling research about homelessness among Indigenous people — with the hopes it could influence government policy decisions, and contribute to reconciliation.
Last fall, the university hosted a conference, called Reclaiming Home, which focused on issues of homelessness, housing, and reconciliation.
"Just looking at the rates of homelessness among Indigenous people compared to non-Indigenous people, our research has shown that Indigenous people are at great risk, much greater risk of homelessness," said Carol Kauppi, director of the Centre for Research in Social Justice Policy at Laurentian, and the person leading the research.
After hosting speakers from Canada and abroad, the team is now working to compile the presentations into a book, which will also serve as a call to action.
Truth and reconciliation
Kauppi has studied homelessness for a number of years, and in 2017 she received an Impact Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council — which provided funding to carry out the research.
She said the topic of for this project was in part inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, and calls to action.
"In looking at those we realized there are many relevant calls to action, but none that specifically relate to homelessness and housing. So we, that became the focus of our project," Kauppi said.
"It's important to understand what needs to be done in order to move towards reconciliation."
Kauppi said there are "constellations of factors that increase the likelihood that an Indigenous person will experience homelessness."
In 2018, Kauppi's team conducted research in 15 communities in northeastern Ontario, compiling a database of approximately 3,500 people experiencing homelessness. She said the prevalence of homelessness among Indigenous people ranged from one community to another. In Sudbury, for example, they found that about 40 per cent of the homeless population was Indigenous, while the percentage was even higher in Cochrane.
She said some of those factors include shortage of housing and overcrowding in some First Nations communities, migration from communities on the James Bay coast into urban centres, and individuals being denied access to housing because of discrimination.
The conference last fall included speakers from across the country, and Kauppi hopes the book will have a national reach.
There was also a speaker from Finland, and Kauppi said two chapters of the book will be devoted to that presentation —and what Canada can learn from that country, a nation that has managed to cut its levels of homelessness, while they rise elsewhere in the world.
"If a small country like Finland can do it, why can't a very wealthy country like Canada do the same?"
Kauppi said the final chapter of the book will outline policy implications of the research.
The book is set to be published in September, and in the meantime, the team is seeking artwork from Indigenous post secondary students, to be featured on the cover, and in the book. The winners will also receive monetary prizes.
"We think it's important to have some Indigenous artwork on the cover, and to really highlight the focus of the book, the focus on reconciliation."