Accessing adequate and safe housing is a serious challenge for many Indigenous women, girls, gender-diverse and Two-Spirit people. Not only do they face challenges of overcrowding, poverty and lack of safe drinking water but, because of their gender, they are more likely to face domestic violence as well. The goal of our Housing Project has been to research and engage with Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people to determine what their needs are and how those needs can be filled.
While there are some housing issues shared by Indigenous communities, each community has unique challenges in developing, constructing, and maintaining an adequate housing supply. Indigenous women face these challenges in an even more unique way.
Racialized violence disproportionately affects Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Housing issues are a contributing factor to the lack of safety and security for many Indigenous women. Insufficient accessible shelter and affordable housing options for Indigenous women leave them and their children in abusive situations, especially in remote, rural and Northern communities. Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience violence, with rates of intimate partner violence three times higher than non-Indigenous women.1
Compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are more likely to be unemployed or earn lower income.3 They are also more likely to experience hidden homelessness, implying they are in precarious, temporary, transitional or over-crowded housing situations without adequate, permanent and safe conditions.
Colonization, patriarchy and the effects of intergenerational trauma shape Indigenous women’s experiences of homelessness and housing insecurity. Any approach to address these impacts must recognize the complex social, historical, economic and legislative issues that contribute to these experiences.
Housing and living conditions are a critical factor in health and wellbeing. Recognizing the importance of safe and appropriate home, the Government of Canada developed in 2017 the first ever National Housing Strategy in which improving Indigenous housing was identified as a priority. Overcrowding, the presence of mold, and lack of safe drinking water in the home all increase the risk of infectious and chronic disease and have a detrimental effect on mental health.
The lack of appropriate and safe housing is a severe and ongoing problem in too many Indigenous communities. Many families on-reserve live in over-crowded, unsafe, or condemned homes. The on-reserve housing crisis particularly impacts Indigenous women and girls. According to recent statistics, 14% of First Nations women and girls live in crowded dwellings, and 44% of women and girls on reserve live in homes needing major repairs.
As part of the final phase of the NWAC work on the Housing project, NWAC staff have developed a final report including an environmental scan, online survey, community and expert engagement, policy recommendations and recommended next steps. As part of this project NWAC has engaged with Indigenous communities and undertake research and policy analysis on the impacts of housing and the needs of Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, and gender diverse people.
The project took an intersectional approach and focused on the unique and diverse needs and circumstances of Indigenous women, girls, two-Spirit, and gender diverse people. The experiences and differences in needs of Indigenous women living on-reserve, transitioning off of reserve, or living off reserve in rural or urban areas, will be examined throughout the project. The differing experiences and needs of status and non-status First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women, Two-Spirit, gender diverse and LGBTQ2S+ people were included.