“A Story I Never Heard Before”: Aboriginal Young Women, Homelessness, and Restoring Connections





Aboriginal young women are overrepresented in the youth homeless population found in Canada’s urban centres. These young women, while experiencing difficulties in housing and often social, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing, are part of families and communities which have experienced historically based trauma, often manifesting itself intergenerationally. This historical trauma includes the impact on participants and their grandmothers, aunties, and mothers of the effects of removal of children from families in order to foster assimilation, including removal to residential schools or through child welfare processes. Part of a larger qualitative and longitudinal study involving eighteen homeless female youth, the data from the nine Aboriginal participants was also analyzed separately. Results from this analysis include the influence of toxic narratives emerging from residential school attendance, overly invasive child welfare intervention, and historical and ongoing systemic inequities; these factors contributed to participant’s homelessness. At the same time, reconnection with culture and restorying identities allowed for the development of narratives of pride and hope which assisted in moving toward healthier lifestyles and transition from homelessness. These young women intend to raise their own children by the narratives and cultural practices they now consider essential to wellness.

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