Abstract: Predictors of Indigenous Peoples' Experiences of Homelessness (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Predictors of Indigenous Peoples' Experiences of Homelessness

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 9, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Alberton, Doctoral Candidate, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Brent Angell, Professor Emeritus, University of Windsor
Kevin Gorey, Professor, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Stephane Grenier, Professor, Universite du Quebec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue
Indigenous peoples are one of the most oppressed groups in USA and Canada. They are overrepresented in child welfare and criminal justice systems and among homeless populations. There seems a lack of quantitative research of Indigenous peoples’ intersecting experiences within these systems and their effects on homelessness. Their risk of homelessness is compounded by a relative lack of educational and employment opportunities; longstanding impacts of (neo)colonialism.

The purpose of this analysis was to advance knowledge with a national sample (n = 24,133). Theorizing intersecting sites of oppression of Indigenous peoples, this study examined their interaction with the child welfare system. Hypotheses were: (1) Indigenous people are more likely to experience homelessness. (2) People ever in the care of child protection services are more likely to experience homelessness. (3) The interacting effect of being Indigenous and child protection exposure is multiplicatively disadvantaging.

Hypotheses were tested with Canada’s 2014 General Social Survey (GSS). It was developed in consultation with key, including Indigenous, stakeholders. The GSS sampled noninstitutionalized residents of Canada 15 years of age or older. Potential participants were selected with a random cell/landline digit-dialing methodology. The response rate was 53%.

Two separate dichotomous outcome variables were visible and hidden homelessness. Personal covariates were age and gender. Social-structural covariates were education, experiences of discrimination, contacts with criminal courts and experiences of sexual or physical abuse. Main predictors were Indigenous identity and child welfare involvement. Logistic regressions tested the adjusted main and interacting predictive effects of Indigenous identity and child welfare system exposure. Practical and statistical significance were assessed with odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals estimated from regression statistics.

Indigenous peoples were more likely to experience visible (5.4% vs 1.6%) and hidden homelessness (18.5% vs 8.7%) than non-Indigenous people (both p < .001). Indigenous identity (ORs ranged 1.50 to 3.50) and having ever been in child protective care (ORs ranged 2.50 to 10.50) were both strongly associated with homelessness, visible and hidden. Their hypothesized interaction was not observed. We secondarily observed that education was strongly protective for non-Indigenous white, but not at all for Indigenous participants.

Indigenous peoples are far more vulnerable to structural oppression than non-Indigenous people. Indigenous identity and child welfare exposure strongly predicted homelessness. Although the hypothesized interaction was not observed, this does not mean that Indigenous identity does not multiplicatively matter. Indigenous respondents were more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous participants to have lived in that system, placing them at much greater population attributable risk.

These findings highlight intersecting sites of oppression contributing to Indigenous peoples’ homelessness in Canada. If these sites of oppressive inequalities are to be rectified and social justice realized, attention must be given to the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the child welfare system and consequent homeless population of Canada and the USA. Culturally-relevant policies and practices must be implemented with Indigenous peoples at their forefront. Future research should focus on further advancing structural understandings, especially explanations for the seeming lack of educational benefits experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada.