Homelessness and Incarceration among Aboriginal Women: An Integrative Literature Review





Aboriginal women have higher rates of homelessness than non-Aboriginal women and they are overrepresented in the prison population. Those who are homeless are at increased risk for incarceration; equally, those just released from prison are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. In this paper we review the historical context and the literature on homelessness and incarceration among Aboriginal women, and summarize best practices or promising programs for interrupting the cycle of homelessness and incarceration. The literature suggests that an effective program contains one or more of the following characteristics. First, it recognizes sociohistorical factors that have contributed to homelessness and criminality. Second, it helps establish a sense of identity and connection with Aboriginal culture, tradition, and spirituality. Third, it addresses the particular needs of women, specifically, the interpersonal violence that Aboriginal women have experienced throughout their lives, and the importance of women’s relationships with children and family. Finally, the literature recommends much broader social action, beyond targeted programs: upholding treaty agreements, ensuring meaningful participation of Aboriginal people in program planning and implementation and in governance, for example, using a restorative justice process to address transgressions within the community.

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