If we created the problem, we can create the solution.
The creation of youth homelessness is just that – a creation. It is born out of a series of complex factors that contribute to the tragedy of youth not having a roof over their head. Although we may never eliminate every risk that youth are exposed to, we do have control over our responses and the systems that we put in place to support youth long before they become entrenched in such a crisis driven life.
30% of the homeless population in St. John's are youth
Homelessness in St. John's
In Canada, there are approximately 65,000 homeless youth. This represents the fastest growing and most under-served segment of the homeless population across the country.
In Newfoundland & Labrador, while many of these at-risk youth congregate in city centres, the issue is truly provincial in scope.
Accordingly to End Homelessness St. John's, shelter statistics from 2012 reveal that youth ages 16-24 comprise 30% of St. John's emergency shelter population. This is 10% higher than the national average.
A different approach.
Traditional responses to youth homelessness focus on emergency interventions. While this is incredibly important, there is a need to take a more holistic approach - one that focuses on prevention, housing and supports. This strategic shift has tremendous on impact the way we think about homelessness and helps us design better solutions.
To end youth homelessness we must work together as a collaborative community invested in a better future for our province. This collaboration should focus on two main components: build our collective capacity, and share knowledge to progress systemic changes to public policies that impact youth homelessness.
A comprehensive plan would include roles for government; non-profit and community agencies, the private sector, as well as for individuals, families & neighbours.
WHY FOCUS ON YOUTH?
- Youth are in the process of transitioning to adulthood. In many cases they may not have acquired the social, personal and life skills needed for independent living.
- Youth often avoid the current homelessness serving systems out of fear of authorities.
- Youth have needs and access requirements that are uniquely different from the system aiding homeless adults.
- For youth under the age of 18, the situation presents an added layer of complexity with obligations and involvement of families and government care.
- Interventions with youth represent an opportunity to avoid long-term, unhealthy entrenchment in cycles of homelessness.
Youth Homelessness 101
Youth who become homeless, or who are at imminent risk of becoming homeless, may have experiences that include: family breakdown, childhood trauma, addictions, mental illness, poverty, extreme forms of violence and abuse, disrupted educations and involvement with child protection and other systems. As a result, youth are left lacking the most basic life skills necessary to navigate an increasingly challenging adult world. The majority of youth who are homeless have had many of these experiences concurrently.
Youth between the ages of 16 and 25 "who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers and importantly, lack many of the social supports deemed necessary for the transition from childhood to adulthood. In such circumstances, they do not have a stable or consistent residence or source of income, nor do they necessarily have adequate access to the support networks necessary to foster a safe and nurturing transition into the responsibilities of adulthood." - Stephen Gaetz, Homeless Hub
- Mental Health and/or Addictions Challenges
- Family Conflict and/or Instability
- Disrupted Education
- Low Income and/or Poverty
- Marginalization and/or Discrimination
- Abuse and/or Other Forms of Victimization
- Experience with Child Intervention Systems
- Previous Episode of Temporary Homelessness
- Isolation and Stigma
- Adult and Inter-generational Homelessness
- Overburdening of Health, Criminal Justice and Child Protection Systems
- Increased Vulnerability to Violence and Sexual Exploitation
- Increased Risk of Suicide
*Higher costs are associated with crisis response measures