Inuit housing and homelessness: results from the International Polar Year Inuit Health Survey 2007-2008

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2011;70(5):520-31. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v70i5.17858. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Objectives: Evaluate housing characteristics across Inuit regions in Canada that participated in the 2007-2008 International Polar Year (IPY) Inuit Health Survey.

Study design: A cross-sectional Inuit Health Survey.

Methods: Housing characteristics were ascertained as part of the IPY Inuit Health Survey through interviews conducted in 33 coastal and 3 inland communities, representing all communities in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) of NWT, Nunavut and Nunatsiavut of northern Labrador. Variable descriptive statistics were weighted and presented by region and by whether children were present or not in each household.

Results: A total of 2,796 Inuit households were approached, of which 68% participated (n=1,901 households). In ISR and Nunavut, approximately 20% of homes provided shelter to the homeless compared to 12% in Nunatsiavut (p≤0.05). The prevalence of public housing and household crowding also varied by region, with Nunavut having a statistically significantly higher prevalence of crowding (30%) than Nunatsiavut (12%) and ISR (12%). Household crowding was more prevalent among homes with children. Overall, 40% of homes were in need of major repairs and problems with mould were reported in 20% of households.

Conclusions: Adequate shelter is a basic human need and an essential foundation for thriving population health. The results indicate that improvements in housing indicators are needed. Of utmost concern is the high prevalence of overcrowding in Inuit homes with children, which poses potential consequences for children's health and well-being. Further, the high percentage of homes providing shelter to the homeless suggests that hidden homelessness needs to be addressed by further research and program implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arctic Regions / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Crowding*
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Inuit / psychology
  • Inuit / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence