Jesse Thistle: From Homelessness to Scholar

Jesse Thistle, a Métis-Cree man, spent more than a decade on the streets, homeless and in jail. But now, he’s a best- selling author, a Governor General medalist, Vanier and Trudeau scholar, PhD candidate and Assistant Professor at York University.


His memoir, From the Ashes details how his issues with abandonment and addiction led to homelessness, incarceration and his eventual redemption through higher education. It was nominated for Canada Reads and is an international best-seller, inspiring millions of readers.


After a difficult childhood, Thistle spent much of his early adulthood struggling with addiction while living on the streets of Toronto.


"I'd get a place, lose it. I'd end up at a shelter, stay in a shelter for a week or two then get another place, use, cash my cheque and end up back on the street," he said in an article with CBC. "That cycle continued for a while."


His turning point came in 2006 when he got into trouble with the law for robbing a store. Dealing with crack addiction and a broken, infected foot, Thistle was just 138 pounds at 6' 2" when he finally realized his own mortality. Then, more loss, forced him to really look in the mirror.