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.

British Columbia is planning to introduce a pilot program that would give some residents a basic income in what will be part of a series of legislative strategies to fight poverty, the minister in charge said Monday.

Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson said his government wants to test the effectiveness of providing people with a basic income to reduce poverty, improve health, employment and housing prospects.

The NDP government is consulting with other jurisdictions that have similar programs.

Jesse Thistle is the Resident Scholar on Indigenous Homelessness at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. This makes him one of Canada’s foremost experts on the subject, and for good reason: he’s been homeless himself. On October 26 he published a new definition of Indigenous homelessness that he hopes will spur decision-makers to shift how they deal with Indigenous people who end up on the street.

Jesse was on and off the street for over 10 years. “I got into some serious trouble with the law, and I was court ordered to go to rehab and sort myself out,” he told me. Eventually Jesse was able to get through rehab, and has now been sober since June 2008. “Part of me trying to figure myself out and my 12 steps was to go back and evaluate my past,” Jesse said.

What he found there was a deep sense of loss. “When I talk to residential school survivors, or people who have been taken by adoption like me and my brothers, our homelessness started in childhood when we were taken from our families,” he said. “From there, the loss of culture, the loss of identity, not knowing what’s your place in society, that leads to homelessness.”

The latest Census data simply confirms the reality that racialized people, people who are recent immigrants, and Indigenous people continue to face discrimination and that income inequality doesn’t just magically reverse itself. That takes political leadership.

It’s time for the federal and provincial governments to make concrete commitments to implement policies that will reduce income inequality in ways that will show measureable progress in the 2021 Census. This will require policy development, implementation, and hard dollars.

People without access to a healthy food option, like a grocery store, are considered at-risk by Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health.

They were highlighted in a report submitted to the local Board of Health, identifying “food deserts” – areas without access to healthy food – in Elgin and St. Thomas. Food deserts are urban areas more than one kilometre from healthy food, and rural areas more than 16 kilometres from healthy food.

“We have seen that there are pockets in St. Thomas, Aylmer, and Port Stanley,” said Kendall Chambers, registered dietician with the public health department. “But we’re more worried about rural areas, [especially] in East Elgin. That’s where we’re focusing.”

So what does poverty look like in Canada in 2017? Well, the Citizens for Public Justice has come up with its latest poverty trends report which indicates we have some work to do in this country.

The reality is that most adults living in poverty are employed, but they are often overlooked and have limited policy supports.

People with disabilities are highly vulnerable to poverty, particularly those facing multiple discriminations.

Over 43 per cent of those living in poverty are children from single parent families and are most often female-led.

Some of our highest poverty rates shamefully continue to be among Indigenous people who are part of the continuous legacy of colonization.

One food bank is making up for the closure of another.

The number of people walking through the doors of the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank is increasing after The Salvation Army stopped supplying food in September.

“Since the St. Thomas Elgin County Food Bank is the only registered food bank in our community, we do not receive government funding or food donations to provide to our clients. Any food we provide has been purchased and reduced the amount of funds that could be spent on other programs and services to our Community that are not provided by other agencies,” Captain Nyree Bond of The Salvation Army said in an email.

Bond said The Salvation Army continues to provide other services like free school lunches, youth ball hockey and summer camps.

The St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank used to allow people to come every 60 days but will be moving to a 30 day rotation.