When the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness came out with a definition of Canadian homelessness in 2012, it didn’t sit right with executive board member Jesse Thistle. Which is odd, considering he spent his 20s cycling in and out of homelessness.

“[They] framed it around being unhoused, and there’s a range of unhoused conditions. And I was like, this is not articulating my experience as an Indigenous person with prior [homelessness] experience,” Thistle said in a phone interview with The Tyee last week.

“I said, we need … to articulate what the problem is. [But] we don’t even know what the problem is because no one’s properly defined it.”

His fellow board members listened and asked Thistle if he, now housed and an academic, wanted to take the lead on defining homelessness from the Indigenous perspective.