Housing Projects for the People We Serve

Posted: New Initiatives:
Oct 12, 2023
  • Issue 17
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Documenting Housing Needs

Supported by the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA) at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, NWAC is undertaking a project to explore, document, and advocate for the housing needs of Indigenous Two-Spirit, transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse+ (2STNBGD+) people.

Current events in the media highlight that in all areas of life, including access to housing and housing-related services, Indigenous 2STNBGD+ individuals face extra layers of discrimination due to ignorance, intolerance, irrational fears, a lack of empathy, racism, and heteronormative and cisnormative biases and stereotyping—that people identify with the sex they were assigned at birth—and the stereotyping associated with these biases (Thomas et al.). (Note: Cisnormativity is the societal, systemic, or personal prejudice that assumes that a person’s gender identity should align with a sex assigned at birth and asserts that this is the correct or ideal form of gender identity and expression.)

Further, it has been recognized that “gender-diverse, Two-Spirit, and trans people face significant, intersecting, human rights violations when it comes to housing and accessing emergency shelters, and are more likely to experience hidden homelessness” (Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network).

NWAC has produced a brief literature review to supplement information on this housing topic as it specifically relates to Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people. It will soon be posted in the Knowledge Centre.

Informed by this literature review and an external advisory committee of Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people with lived experience, NWAC conducted an online sharing circle in June to gather more lived experiences.

A second sharing circle took place in September. It focused on lived experiences and knowledge shared by service providers who work to advocate for and support the housing needs of Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people. Here is some of what we heard:

  • everyone should have clean water in their houses
  • there is a lack of affordable housing
  • what housing does exist needs major repairs to make it healthy
  • shelters often lack policies (such as the definition of a family) and systems that enable, respect, and welcome Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people and their children, and/or their cultures and values
  • many people lost housing because neighbours did not like their gender expression and/or made false allegations of sexual assault
  • not everyone is aware of legal protections in terms of tenants’ rights and legal support for Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people in cases of discrimination
  • even where legal protections exist, there isn’t confidence that the people charged with upholding these rights will offer protections

We heard about youth ending up homeless when their immediate families learn about and reject their sexuality and/or gender identities. This can lead to a heavy reliance on extended family and friends to stay housed. Systemic barriers like access to gender-affirming ID or cheques required for rental deposits also create barriers to accessing housing. Participants spoke loud and clear about Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people needing to be included in decision-making about housing for them, the need for more education to increase compassion, equity, and understanding in the public, the need for housing staff and case workers, and the need for wrap-around supports for Indigenous 2STNBGD people who are healing from trauma as they try and navigate the housing system to stay housed.

We know that Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people who are precariously housed are more susceptible to gender-based violence and human trafficking, which underlines the urgency of addressing this issue.

We also heard a lot of valuable information about the need for accountability. Housing staff and case workers staff need to be adequately trained and paid to best support the housing needs of Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people, and they need to be accountable for client success. Housing policy and urban planning lack coordination across agencies; governments need to enable non-profits to produce more affordable, affirming housing; we need separate clean/sober shelters; and there is a need for an Indigenous WG2STNBGD+ people’s housing plan, along with timelines and accountabilities.

In the days that follow, especially leading up to any elections, think about what we heard. Pause and reflect on the experiences of Indigenous 2STNBGD+ people. Consider Indigenous values embedded in the Seven Grandfather Teachings: respect, humility (including compassion), bravery, honesty (integrity), truth/generosity (cultural teachings in some nations), wisdom, and love. Act and vote with your heart and head in agreement. Vote for those likely to create policies that will create inclusive housing for all. We are collectively stronger when we include, value, and respect everyone.

Developing a Sustainable, Affordable, and Culturally Appropriate Housing Model (Stage 2)

Through this project, NWAC continues to research and advocate for the human rights and better housing for Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse+ (WG2STGD+) people. By researching and developing a sustainable, affordable, and culturally appropriate housing model, NWAC can contribute to increased housing security and related socio-economic benefits for Indigenous WG2STGD+ people and their communities.

Stage 2 of this project expands upon the preliminary design that was created following research in Stage 1. In the coming weeks, NWAC will collaborate with team members at our Wabanaki Resiliency Lodge and engage with community organizations in New Brunswick, including the Indigenous women of the Wabanaki Territory, to support the feasibility study and architectural designs to prepare to build. We plan to engage folks in the area on the design, tweak the design/model based on local lived experiences and needs, finalize the plan, get detailed cost estimates, and meet any other requirements needed to get funding to build a model unit (building to take place in stage 3).

Funds permitting, NWAC will build one unit, likely on the Wabanaki Resiliency Lodge site, beginning in spring/summer 2024. After doing some user acceptance testing and adjustment, we envision scaling up the model to build more units in other locations in a stage 4 for this project.


Thomas, M., McCoy, T., Jeffries, I., Haverkate, R., Naswood, E., Leston, J., and Platero, L. (2022). “Native American Two Spirit and LGBTQ Health: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 26(4), 367–402.

Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network. (2023). “A Portrait of Homelessness Amongst Gender-Diverse People in Canada,” Homeless Hub.

A Portrait of Homelessness Amongst Gender-Diverse People in Canada