The reality of being homeless in Canada is complicated. Nearly a third of people experiencing life without shelter are women, almost one in five are young people, Indigenous populations are overrepresented—and more. Meet Erin Dej and Jesse Thistle, two experts with big ideas about how to fix this important problem

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Erin Dej has a PhD in criminology from the University of Ottawa and an MA in legal studies from Carleton University. She previously held a postdoctoral fellowship with York University’s Canadian Observatory on Homelessness—a “non-partisan research and policy partnership between academics, policy and decision makers, service providers and people with lived experience of homelessness.” She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

At COH’s Homeless Hub, Erin worked on A New Direction, a framework for homelessness prevention that draws on lessons learned from Wales, Scotland, Australia and Germany—countries that have tried, and succeeded with, thoughtful, effective strategies to improve the lives of their neediest citizens.


Jesse Thistle previously had what he has called “a long career as a homeless drug addict.” He is now a Trudeau and Vanier Scholar, a Governor General medalist, the resident scholar of Indigenous homelessness at COH and an advocate for the rights of Indigenous homeless people across Canada. His life story and academic works have been widely reported:

Jesse has created “an Indigenous definition for homelessness” that expands far beyond the mere fact of not having a roof to sleep under. His broader understanding of the experience includes a dozen “dimensions” that better explain it.

For the full definition of Indigenous homelessness in Canada, visit

No Little Plans is hosted by Vicky Mochama of Vocal Fry Studios. This podcast was created by Strategic Content Labs for Community Foundations of Canada.

In our next episode, we will explore Gender Equality. Subscribe or listen to us via the outlets above, and follow us at @nolittlepodcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Meanwhile, like Daniel Burnham said: “Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”