Indigenous Sovereignty #StartsWithHome


To truly have an impact on homelessness in our community, we must lead with and be led by Indigenous knowledge.

Ottawa is located on unceded Algonquin, Anishnabek territory. These lands were stolen from the traditional keepers for the purposes of settlers. Dispossession of land is just one form of ongoing colonization that has led to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people disproportionately experiencing homelessness. 

Research shows that Indigenous Peoples account for 20-50% of the total homeless population in cities like Ottawa. 


Graph stating that 2.5% of Ottawa's population identifies as Indigenous but that 24% of those experiencing homelessness in Ottawa identify as Indigenous. Together, we can end it.

Jesse Thistle: Understanding & Seeing Indigenous Homelessness

On this National Indigenous People’s Day, we show gratitude for the work of Indigenous scholar Jesse Thistle in defining homelessness as experienced by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. His work in uncovering and teaching the 12 dimensions of Indigenous homelessness makes clear the connection between historical and ongoing colonization and the over-representation of Indigenous people in homelessness. It gives us a roadmap for addressing the crisis, led by the wisdom and experience of Indigenous knowledge.

The 12 dimensions of Indigenous homelessness are: 

  • Historic displacement
  • Contemporary geographic separation
  • Spiritual disconnection
  • Mental disruption and imbalance
  • Cultural disintegration and loss
  • Overcrowding
  • Relocation and mobility
  • Going Home (returning home and feeling like an outsider)
  • Nowhere to go (lack of access)
  • Escaping or evading harm
  • Emergency crisis (environmental manipulation + bureaucratic red tape)
  • Climate refugee (climate change impacting subsistence patterns)

Read more about it here.


Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition: The Importance of Indigenous-led Governance

Campaign endorser, Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition, is an advocacy organization that responds to the needs of the Ottawa Aboriginal Community with a unified approach and addresses systemic issues through partnerships with non-Aboriginal organizations. Their members are Indigenous service organizations providing front-line programs and services to Aboriginal people living in the National Capital Region. 

In 2015 the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition developed a relationship model when working with non-Aboriginal partners in the area of mental health that can also be used in the context of housing and homelessness services and programs. This model recognizes that for reconciliation relationships to be established, at a systemic level, there needs to be equal respect for western knowledge and indigenous knowledge. 

There are specific outcomes for each direction: 

North → Cultural Reclamation

An increase in the number of stand-alone Aboriginal programs, services, and organizations that are developed and operated based on Indigenous knowledge and led by Aboriginal people.

East → Cultural Awareness

An increase in the number of mainstream service providers that have a greater knowledge about the Aboriginal community in Ottawa and have increased their confidence in working with Aboriginal people.

South → Cultural Competence

Mainstream organizations have examined their own internal practices and made changes to ensure that Aboriginal community members access the services and experience a culturally safe and positive experience.  In some cases that means transforming the programs that an organization provides to the community.

West → Cultural Congruence

Outcomes that indicate that we know how to work with each other and have culturally competent practices. Outcomes include the number of joint programs and services that we provide and which, of these programs, are developed and run based on Indigenous knowledge


Embracing Indigenous leadership and collaboration is crucial to ensuring the prevention, reduction, and ultimate end of homelessness in Ottawa. Starts With Home and the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa support the call for a fully-funded Indigenous Housing Strategy with an Indigenous-led governance structure. That is why in our campaign platform, we outline the need for an increase in funding as part of a For Indigenous, By Indigenous housing strategy. 


Tungasuvvingat: The Difference Indigenous Leadership Makes

ATEHO and OAC member, Tungasuvvingat, is putting this to practice and is seen as a centre of excellence in several of their programs, providing Inuit-specific social support, cultural activities, employment and education assistance, youth programs, counseling, crisis intervention, and more. TI is a respected leader in Canada and the primary model for Inuit-specific service delivery, working in both urban and non-urban settings. It is the only Inuit-specific service organization of its kind in urban Canada offering support through a person’s entire life cycle. As the population of Inuit living outside of Inuit Nunangat now exceeds 40%, the need for programs like these is essential. Most critically with a model whose core values are anchored in the traditional principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), the Inuit way of “knowing.” To further fund the leadership and support of programs like TI would be a significant and impactful step forward.


Albert Dumont: Leading with Compassion, Modeling Dignity

In wisdom, Ottawa’s poet laureate, Albert Dumont, reminds us that as human beings, our first call is to compassion. To treat all living beings with reverence, gratitude, and kindness, and to share this earthly home we’ve been given.

© Albert Dumont

With the skin
On the soles of our feet
We gently touch, the sacred surface
Of Akikodjiwan

The spirit of the island
Rises from the rock, like a bird
Soaring into the blood of our hearts

We raise our hands into the sky
The stars descend, to caress our palms
We open our eyes
And search the universe, at peace
Looking upon the face
Of the Great Mystery

We listen to the Kichi Zibi
Of the Algonquin Anishinabe
She has followed the path
Created for her by Mino Manido
Guiding her to sacred Akikodjiwan
Where the mighty voice of water
Reminds all Peoples that without water
All life of this world, would perish

The moon illuminates the island
She speaks to us
Of her love for water
The fire we kindle hears her message
His flames rising ever higher
Our circle dances, the rapids sing

The smoke of burning sage
Carries our chanting song
To the eternal home
Of our grandmothers and grandfathers

The waters of the Falls
Swallow our humble offerings of tobacco
We call upon the Good Spirit
To bless
All the Peoples of our Nations

“Let us always be kind
To one another” we say
“And honour all things
Creator provides to humankind
So our children can live joyful lives”

We stand with kindness in our hearts
On a sacred island
Where the circle is always strong
Where our instructions as human beings
Rise, encircled in the mist of Akikodjiwan
They call loudly, wanting to be reclaimed
To assure the survival
Of all their relations

Albert Dumont writes: \

Latest posts

Deputation at Community Services Committee
Budget 2024

Hear our Executive Director Kaite Burkholder Harris share long-term solutions to Ottawa's housing crisis at the Community Services Committee.

Tuesday, Nov 28th - Community Services Committee - Budget 2024

 Good Morning Chair and Members of the Committee,

Over the course of the past year, as the City faces the full impact of a housing crisis out of control, I want to start by pointing to actions that are working. In June, this Council approved an Integrated Transition to Housing Plan that City staff built with community partners. The result in the short term is an enhanced rent subsidy with greater flexibility, enabling people who have been stuck in homelessness to rapidly move out of the PDC’s. By allocating resources towards flexible subsidies like this, we enable people to secure stable housing.

Ending Homelessness Starts With Non-Profit Housing

By: Sophia Kelly-Langer

Take a moment to picture a person experiencing a housing crisis. What does it look like? For some, it looks like sitting out in the cold, hoping that the shelter is not full, so they can actually get in that night. For others, it looks like a family struggling to make the rent after a lay-off. It may look like a senior on a fixed income unable to downsize in their neighbourhood because there are no affordable options.


In the most extreme cases, a housing crisis looks like people living in encampments, some directly in front of Parliament Hill. These have become the only shelter options for some, including children and youth under bridges. The jarring contrast of the most vulnerable going without the basic need of housing just feet away from our country’s decision-makers is not lost on the people living in an encampment.

Increase Investment in Non-Profit Housing: Deputation to the Planning & Housing Committee, February 15th 2023

The fallout from the housing crisis means that as a city, we spend $30 million on emergency shelter costs every year. People experiencing homelessness engaging with police costs roughly $25M every year in Ottawa. We spend over $15 million a year on keeping people in hotels, because there is not enough affordable housing. Ending the housing crisis in our city means that we invest at least as much in solutions, as we do managing the crisis.

In order to make our city affordable, the smartest capital investment we can make is in non-profit housing.

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