Statistics on Aboriginal Homelessness

Statistics indicate that in Calgary between 2008-2012 – Aboriginal Homelessness fluctuated between 21-38%.  Although Aboriginals are only 4% of the population they make up a large majority of the homeless population in Calgary.

38% of Roughsleepers are Aboriginal

Over a third of roughsleepers are Aboriginal people – this encompasses both experienced and preference based roughsleepers as well as those banned from shelter systems.

3-5% of homeless seniors are Aboriginal

Aboriginal seniors are a quickly growing population of homeless in Calgary. Given that baby boomers are rapidly transitioning into seniors this is likely to become a larger proportion of homeless populations in the future. Most cited reason for seniors becoming homelessness is loss of housing due to increased costs of living and rental charges.

50-70% of homeless Families are Aboriginal.

At any given time there are 50-70% of homeless families that are Aboriginal – most are single parent families with 2-4 children under 12.

20%+ of homeless Youth are Aboriginal.

Aboriginal youth homelessness – many Aboriginal youth slip under the radar when it comes to homelessness as they may be couchsurfing with extended family or with friends. Many homeless youth have been discharged from foster care or have exhausted all their natural resources before becoming homeless.

Challenges for Housing Security

  • Lack of housing and overcrowded housing conditions forces Aboriginals off the reserves into the urban core –when housed on the reserve many people are living in substandard housing conditions. Loneliness is another reason that brings the elderly into the city from the reserves – addiction making it difficult to get back home or inability to get back home due to distance and lack of transportation.
  • After the flood rental costs increased dramatically and vacancy rates reduced to under 1% – until recently the housing market in Calgary remained at 1.5%. Since 2015 the vacancy rate continues to climb based on economic changes that have increased housing stock. When the housing stock is limited it is much more difficult for Aboriginal people to secure housing. Nimbyism tends to be more relevant in times of low vacancy rates.
  • Discriminatory practices still exist – last names may impact ability to get a viewing or secure a rental. Compounded with no employment and being on social benefits – Aboriginal people will be challenged with being in competitions for limited housing options.
  • Lacking urban life skills has a huge effect on people who have not developed the skills necessary to manage in the city. Priorities may differ for those that have limited experience in urban living.

Risk Factors and Pathways to Aboriginal Homelessness

  • Poverty and low Income – 57% of Aboriginal people are unemployed and over 50% of Aboriginal people live in poverty. Both these factors increase the potential risk of becoming homeless. Poverty and unemployment contribute to housing instability. Limited income means limited housing options – single parents with one child will unlikely be successful in securing housing unless they share housing, or end up in subsidized options. Unemployment is the main reason overall for homeless across the board. Aboriginal unemployment is higher based on limited education and skill sets. Criminal records also impact employment sustainability.
  • Mental Wellness – Homelessness is highly correlated with mental wellness, in particular untreated or under treated individuals will be more vulnerable to housing instability and are more likely to end up homeless.
  • Addiction & Substance Abuse – Chronic alcoholism is a strong determinant of housing insecurity, particular when the addiction controls the day to day movement of a person. Many who are addicted at this level are disorganized, spend their day focused around their addiction, drink heavily throughout the day and night, and may engage in non-beverage choices. Addiction
    at this level contributes to chronic and episodic homelessness.
  • Domestic Violence
  • Incarceration Institutional Releases – (jails) compound the problems of those ending up on the streets as a result of cycling in and out of these systems. Incarceration can contribute to loss of housing in particular when social benefits are cut off, employment is lost, or children are apprehended by the system.
  • Intergenerational Abuse and Trauma – Intergenerational trauma has an impact on housing instability, particularly when addiction further compounds problems that lead to instability. Trauma may be complicated with mental health and addiction increasing the potential of struggles with both personal and housing stability. The majority of chronically homeless Aboriginals have adverse childhood experiences that affect their homelessness.
  • Child Welfare System – Approximately 80% or more Aboriginal people who end up living on the streets and shelters have either aged out of the Child Protection Services or have experienced periods of foster care or adoption.

Historical Risk Factors

The risk factors have a foundation in the historical issues. Although we are not unique in the issues of colonization, where our history is most impactful is through the legacy of residential schools, the manner in which it was conducted, and the length of time it affected our communities. 1620 the first residential school opened in Canada, while this was a work focused and non-mandatory, by the 1870’s through to 1996 the impact was more detrimental particular when legislated through the 1876 Indian Act, The Child Welfare System took over where the schools left off creating further disparity of cultural identity, systemic discrimination, and external and internal oppressions. Homelessness is a direct link to the above risk factors that are impacted through historical context.

Committee Work

  • Provide Advocacy on Behalf the Issues impacting Homeless Aboriginals
  • Participate and Support Projects and Research
  • Lobby Policy & Legislation
  • Create Community Dialogue & Discussion on the Issue of Aboriginal Homelessness
  • Establish Direction towards Ending Aboriginal Homelessness
  • Create Strategies Towards Stronger & Positive Awareness Regarding Homelessness and Housing


Currently ASCHH is operating with 3 subcommittees that are focused on Housing, Education and Awareness and Homelessness and Health. Ad hoc committees are at times implemented to address specific opportunities around planning or scoping projects that fit within the subcommittee structures and enhance the potential of the subcommittee to ensure that ASCHH voice is implemented.

Subcommittees are led by general committee members and an ASCHH Co-Chair with administrative support from the Aboriginal Community Liaison. Members of subcommittee groups may include non-ASCHH members, but all subcommittee groups commit to the ToR for the subcommittee.

Housing Subcommittee

The Housing Subcommittee is tasked with addressing housing goals from the Plan to End Homelessness. This committee is made up of organizations with an interest in advocating for greater access and supports within the continuum of housing options to Calgary’s indigenous peoples. A Working Group was developed in 2017 to work within the Subcommittee to advance a scoping grant for an Indigenous housing project.

Education and Awareness Subcommittee

The Education and Awareness Subcommittee is tasked with addressing awareness campaigns and educational recommendations from the Plan to End Aboriginal Homelessness. One of the main awareness campaigns for ASCHH is the annual experiential day of homelessness – Aboriginal Street Survivor.

In addition this subcommittee is meant to continue to increase opportunities through presentations, developing other opportunities to engage Calgary’s general and corporate public on the issues of Aboriginal homelessness and housing issues.

Homelessness and Health Collaborative Subcommittee

The Homelessness and Health Collaborative Subcommittee is a collaboration of both ASCHH and the Recovery Task Services Calgary Indigenous Council. As many of the focuses are similar this committee amalgamated to provide stronger leverage to issues related to homelessness and health. One of ASCHH’s main recommendations from the Plan to End Aboriginal Homelessness is an Indigenous Managed Alcohol Program to address an alternative harm reduction approach to addressing chronic alcoholism.

Throughout the past few years ASCHH has identified a number of young Indigenous peoples who have been affected by non-beverage use of alcohol and/or chronic use. As a result of these concerns, ASCHH proposes to address a program that will enhance the quality of life with the intent of reducing the harmful effects of chronic alcohol and non-beverage alcohol use. The collaboration of ASCHH and RTSC Indigenous committee will continue to identify strategic recommendations that merge between ASCHH’s Plan to End Aboriginal Homelessness and the Recovery Task Force’s Recommendations.