News / Vancouver

Aboriginal people make up third of homeless population

Report blames history of colonialism and intergenerational trauma

Aboriginal people are overrepresented among Metro Vancouver's homeless population.

File Photo / Metro

Aboriginal people are overrepresented among Metro Vancouver's homeless population.

Aboriginal people make up one-third of the homeless population in Metro Vancouver, despite representing only 2.5 per cent of the region’s residents, according to this year’s homeless count.

The number represents a 28 per cent increase from the 2014 count, which found 582 people identifying as both aboriginal and homeless.

Vancouver and Surrey were hotspots for aboriginal homelessness – 60 per cent of the aboriginal homeless population were counted in Vancouver and 18 per cent were found in Surrey.

“This 2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver underscores what we already know: that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by homelessness, and that fewer of them are accessing shelter,” said David Wells, Chair of the Aboriginal Homelessness Steering Committee (AHSC).

The report found systemic and historical factors were key causes of homelessness among Aboriginal people. In fact, intergenerational trauma from residential school and colonization directly contributes to the high percentage of Aboriginal people in shelters and on the streets, according to the report.

Research shows that among Aboriginal people, education levels are lower while incarceration, child in care, and unemployment incarceration rates are higher.

These findings have led the Aboriginal Homeless Steering Committee to call for culturally appropriate supports for healing and reconciliation for those experiencing trauma. The committee is also recommending the creation of an independent B.C. Homelessness Ombudsman office to support the interest of homeless people. 

Another recommendation says youth in the foster system should receive support until youth are 25 years old to help them transition into adulthood smoothly.

The 2017 Homeless Count was conducted on March 8, 2017.

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