Youth homelessness refers to youth who are homeless, at-risk of homelessness or caught in a cycle of homelessness for whatever reason. This includes the many homeless youth (some say as high as 80%) who don’t live on the street and who are among the hidden homeless. The age definition of youth ranges from as young as 12 to as old as 29 years old. most often, however, youth are defined as 16 to 24 years old. They are not living with a family in a home and they are not under the care of child protection agencies. Often they are defined as living in a cycle of homelessness which can mean being temporarily sheltered or living in crowded or unsafe conditions.
Youth comprise the fastest growing age group within the homeless population (Ringwalt, et al., 1998).
Street-involved youth have a different experience of homelessness than do adults. They are more vulnerable to exploitation from adults and from their peers. They need to be able to experiment with opportunities and to be able to fail and try again in a supportive environment without life-altering consequences. They are, after all, youth.
Close to 30% of youth respondents reported legal issues as a barrier to achieving their goals.
more than 50% of the youth reported drug and alcohol abuse and described addiction as a major factor in coping with homelessness as well as in triggering relapses to street life. Many youth self-medicate as a tool for survival in situations where, for example, they might need to stay
awake all night to avoid being exploited.
Close to 70% of respondents reported that they were participating in “street culture”. This
commonly lasts for an extended period, often two to four years.
- Estimate of 65,000 youth that are homeless across Canada – http://www.shelterhouse.on.ca/article/youth-homelessness-147.asp
- 2. X number of those started out in homes and had been in the school system before they became homeless:
youth generally leave home around the age of 15. http://www.covenanthouse.ca/Public/Facts-and-Stats
- 3. Across all kids in schools x% will graduate from high school –
86.6%, second only to the US. http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/education/high-school-graduation-rate.aspx.
2nd source – the high school graduation rate for public schools was 71% in 2007–2008. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/soci/rep/rep06dec11-e.pdf
High school dropout rate – Total 8.5%; men 10.3%; women 6.6%; First Nations 25.8%; Métis, 18.9%
In 2004/2005, nearly 3 in every 10 high school dropouts (29%) aged 20 to 24 had returned to school. The proportion for women was about 35%, and for their male counterparts, about 26%. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/080409/dq080409c-eng.htm
- 4. x% will go on to some sort of post secondary training/education
Participation in postsecondary education was more prevalent among women, with 77% of them participating compared to 66% of men. An additional 20% of both men and women entered postsecondary for the first time between 1999 and 2001. In general, students who pursue postsecondary studies are more likely to be women, single with no children, and they are more likely to have lived with two parents while in high school.
Total: Attended post secondary education 71%
Went to university 33%
Went to college/CEGEP 36%
Went to other postsecondary institution 18%
49% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 were college or university graduates. 28. When graduates of other post-secondary programs, such as vocational training and apprenticeship programs, are included, the percentage increases to 60% of the population. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/soci/rep/rep06dec11-e.pdf
- 5. The chances of getting a job
- did not complete high-school; the unemployment rate for dropouts aged 20 to 24 was 23.2%; median weekly wages – $480.00
- completed high-school: the unemployment rate for aged 20 to 24 was 11.9%; median weekly wages – $577.00
- completed post-secondary
Visible Minorities Not Visible Graduates
Number Percent Number Percent
Employed 88.4% 93.3%
Unemployed 12.4% 9.4%
Not in Labour Force 11.6% 6.7%
Unemployment Rate 14.0% 10.1%
- completed university degree: About 86% of master’s graduates were working full time, compared with 84% for both bachelor’s and doctorate graduates and 80% for college graduates.
- Jobs/careers. From 1990 to 2010, the number of jobs for PSE graduates more than doubled to 4.4 million. In contrast, for those with a high school diploma or less, the number of jobs declined by 1.2 million in the same period. On average, individuals aged 40 to 59 with a university degree earned twice the income of those who had not finished high school, and 50% more than those with college diplomas. http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/soci/rep/rep06dec11-e.pdf
- The advantages of having an educated population are not only economic. People with more education tend to be in better health. In 2005, 67% of Canada’s post-secondary graduates considered themselves to be in “very good” or “excellent” health, compared with only 43% of those without a high school diploma.
- x% of homeless kids have not completed high school (in a sample study involving Calgary, Toronto and St. John’s)
- 62% had dropped out of school,
- 73% were not currently employed
The vast majority of homeless youth have not completed high school – http://www.raisingtheroof.org/RaisingTheRoof/media/RaisingTheRoofMedia/Documents/RoadtoSolutions_fullrept_english.pdf
- 8. These kids are dropping out because
- 22% said they did not have a positive role model in their life
- 42% described growing up in a chaotic home environment
- 24% had experienced some form of sexual, physical or emotional abuse
- 20% reported a history of offending in their families
- 37% said that they witnessed substance abuse in their families
- 41% reported that substance abuse was a barrier that they faced and wanted to address
- 35% identified their lack of essential life skills as a barrier that they would like to address
- 71% had previous criminal justice system involvement
- 21% had children or were pregnant or with a partner who was pregnant
- There are 3 identified critical turning points
Grades 4, 8 and 11/12 where it is critical to get them on the right path
- Grade 4 (transition to middle years) – the transition to middle childhood is marked by entry into formal education – so the school now becomes a major influencing factor in their lives. These children begin to reach out to other community resources. Participation in recreation, arts, club activities and playing or ‘hanging around’ with their peers, all begin to play an increasingly important role in their lives. By this time, most mothers work full-time. For some young people the Net is a vehicle for bullying and sexual harassment. Children have access to a world of information through this technology – sometimes without the emotional maturity to actually understand it. For example, what is the impact of this information on their emotional and social well-being and safety? Is their health threatened because they have earlier access to aspects of teen culture?
- Middle years: grade eight (transition to high school)
Most of the factors listed above apply to the transition from middle years to high school.
- High school: grade 11/12 – The problems related to the transition from high school to post secondary education or the workplace have been outlined in these notes.
- 10. x% suffering from mental illness
According to a recent report issued by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network, one in five teens suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. Young people with a history of mental disorders face great adversity in life. Nearly 40% of youth with mental disorders either drop out of high school, have unplanned pregnancies, take to drugs or alcohol and become convicted criminals. Many of these troubled youth inevitably become runaways or are abandoned to the streets without a place to call home.
Disabled World – Many troubled youth become runaways or are abandoned to the streets without a place to call home: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/homeless-youth.php#ixzz1trxmdkNU
It’s estimated that there are currently 700 homeless youth living on the streets of Vancouver and many of them struggling with addiction. About 60 to 65 per cent of these young people have been through foster care and as many as 50 per cent are dealing with emerging mental health issues.
According to Dr. Mathias, a large gap exists between child and youth mental health services and adult services, causing many youth to struggle to access treatment between ages 17 and 19. http://www.hospitalnews.com/vancouver-doctors-reach-out-to-homeless-youth-battling-mental-illness/
At least 50% of homeless youth are thought to have serious mental health and/or drug addiction problems (Adlaf & Zdanowicz, 1999; Aichhorn, Santeler, Stelzig-Schöler, Kemmler, Steinmayr-Gensluckner, & Hinterhuber, 2008; Ensign & Bell, 2004; Kamieniecki, 2001). Further, while there is clear evidence that mental illness can undermine the very problem-solving skills needed to survive on the street (Muir-Cochrane, et al., 2006), research has only begun to consider how homeless youth’s experience of mental illness might affect, or be affected by, other factors such as, hope, service utilization, and satisfaction with services accessed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2962540/
kidd notes that other studies have found that 33% or more of these young people suffer from major Depressive Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, up to 10% have significant psychotic symptomatology, and multiple diagnoses are present in up to 60% of those affected with mental illness. Additionally, suicide rates are extremely high among homeless youth with most reports indicating suicide attempt rates of 20 – 40%. Suicide has been identified as one of the top two leading causes of death for homeless youth. http://www.raisingtheroof.org/RaisingTheRoof/media/RaisingTheRoofMedia/Documents/RoadtoSolutions_fullrept_english.pdf
- 11. At each point, it has been shown that ABC in their lives will makes a positive difference – KEY DOCUMENT
I N C A N A D A : T H E R O A D T O S O L U T I O N S
A document that outlines solutions to youth homelessness,
based on three years of research and consultation with
stakeholders across Canada
- Prevention is the key to solving youth homelessness. Studies in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia have drawn a similar conclusion. Public education is an important foundation to prevention strategies.
- Programs that target potential early leavers from the education system and support them to stay in school would be beneficial. Often the educational experiences of homeless and street-involved youth are such that they cannot or will not engage in “traditional” approaches to education and literacy.
- Many youth showing up through outreach are in crisis. They are focused on urgent, practical needs such as access to food, hot showers, clothing and emergency support and services.
- Youth who have succeeded in leaving hostile or abusive living situations are often distrustful of adults and consequently find it difficult to access services. Those under 18 do not have equal access to benefits like welfare and social housing.
- Outreach is both a service itself and an effective way to reach street-involved youth who are unfamiliar with services available to them or who feel they would be stigmatized by accessing them. In the hope that youth will become trusting enough to access services in the future, agencies go where the youth are and engage them on the street.
- This paper focuses on three essential service and support system components that address the complex needs of street-involved youth: prevention, emergency response and transitions out of homelessness. Prevention addresses the key triggers of youth homelessness. Emergency response – which includes youth shelters, access and outreach programs – seeks to address the immediate needs of street-involved youth to stabilize their situation. Transitions out of homelessness is anchored in affordable, supportive accommodation and an array of supports to help youth fulfill their potential and successfully integrate into mainstream society. Our research shows that street-involved youth often require diverse, multi-faceted, intensive models of support – support that may include appropriate, affordable housing, education, skills training and employment opportunities, health services, mentorship and much more. System integration of all these elements is therefore of the utmost importance.
The recommendations below are discussed and supported throughout this paper. They focus on three key aspects of an effective response to youth homelessness: prevention, emergency response, and transitions out of
homelessness. They are based on the premise that youth-serving agencies and their community based partners in government, private and non-profit sectors know what works best in their communities across the country; and that stability and long-term employment are proven positive factors in helping young people move away from the street.
- 1. Existing funding: Secure, long-term and flexible funding to enable successful programs for street involved youth to continue to develop and grow;
2. Access to services: ‘One-stop’ barrier-free access to services for street-involved youth within their home community;
3. Education: more educational opportunities/grant programs for street involved youth and increased programs that target early school leavers;
4. Employment: Increased job training and employment opportunities for street-involved youth, in particular graduates of agency programs;
5. Housing: A national housing strategy that includes a continuum of housing specifically for street involved youth, e.g., youth shelters, transitional housing, co-op housing, safe and affordable housing, as well as supportive housing for youth leaving child protection, foster care and group homes;
6. Mentorship: Increased mentorship support aimed at street-involved youth to build self-esteem and develop life skills;
7. Government leadership: Leadership and collaboration among federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments in developing a Canada-wide plan to address youth homelessness;
8. Private sector engagement: Development of a supportive framework to encourage the private sector to participate in creative solutions to youth homelessness e.g., skills training, employment opportunities, development of supportive work environment;
9. Government policy: Development of distinct policies around youth homelessness to address the unique needs of this population.