CSLC/CCLE NB 2006
Ordinary Youth Doing Extraordinary Things
& St. Thomas University – Liberal Arts leader
101 Things You Need to Know About Youth Homelessness
1. There are an estimated 100 million children living on the streets in the world today.
2. A ‘Child on the Street’ refers to children who visit their families regularly and might even return every night to sleep at home, but spend most days and some nights on the street because of poverty, overcrowding, or sexual or physical abuse at home.
3. On any given night, approximately 33,000 Canadians are homeless - 8,000 to 11,000 are youth.
4. The dictionary defines homeless as: n. 1. State of having no home 2. Lacking secure accommodation 3. "Living on the street" 4. Condition associated with lack of economic participation within society 5. State caused by many contributing factors, including physical and mental health problems, substance abuse, poverty, and bad luck.
5. ‘Homeless Youth’ is often used as an umbrella term for a wide range of individuals including unaccompanied youth, runaways, throwaways, street youth and youth in the foster care or institutionalized care system.
6. The Canadian homeless population is increasing in size and is composed of a higher proportion of teenagers, women and their children compared to previous decades.
7. Families with children are the fastest growing group within the homeless population. Families become homeless for many reasons: loss of job, serious illness, rent increases, domestic violence or drug abuse.
8. 50% of all homeless mothers with children are fleeing abusive relationships. Shelters struggle to meet the needs of young families for simple things like socks, underwear, pajamas and food.
9. Long-term or “chronically” homeless people—the individuals we tend to see on our streets—represent less than 20% of the homeless population. Invisible or “hidden,” homelessness is the most common form of homelessness in Canada.
10. The “hidden homeless” are those living in cars and motels, and bunking with friends.
11. Almost one-third of Canada's homeless population is 16-24 years old. That's about 65,000 young people without a place to call home.
12. The terms "homeless youth" and "street youth" are used interchangeably to refer to teenagers and young people below the age of 20–25 years.
13. In general, street kids are more likely to be male. 64% of homeless youth under age 25 are male. 14. 91% of homeless men and 72% of homeless females are between the ages of 19 and 25.
15. On average, street youth first leave home when they are 15 years old.
16. About one-in-seven users of shelters across Canada is a child.
17. 50% of street youth come from middle- and upper-class homes.
18. The prevalence of youth pregnancy in the general population is less than 10%. However, 50% of street youth have reported ever having been pregnant.
19. One-quarter of the female street youth who reported having been pregnant, indicated that they had been pregnant two or more times while living on the street.
20. One-third of homeless youth have been attacked or stabbed with a knife. More than two-thirds of homeless youth have been threatened with serious harm.
21. One-third of street youth suffer from high levels of depression. Almost half of those who are depressed reported attempting suicide at least once.
22. Abuse and neglect are two of the major reasons why young people leave home. Several studies show that nearly
70% of homeless youth have experienced some form of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
23. Among Canadian street youth, 47% reported being physically assaulted by a family member.
24. The first Canadian attempt to estimate the number of homeless people was carried out in 1987 by the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD).
25. At least 20% of all requests for emergency housing are refused because shelters are at capacity. This forces many homeless people to sleep in cars, trains or cardboard shelters.
26. The cost of keeping a street youth in the shelter system is estimated to be $30,000 to $40,000 per year. This runs in sharp contrast to the cost of keeping one youth in jail/custody at a cost of over $100,000 per year.
27. The vast majority of Canadians (81%) believe the number of homeless people can be reduced.
28. If affordable housing was available, 30-40% of homeless individuals would have a place to live.
29. 16.5% of all Canadian children live in families that fall below the poverty line.
30. 13.1% of Canadians are now classified as “poor.”
31. The Canadian Federal Government committed $134.8 million in funding in the fiscal year 2006 for its National Homelessness Program (called the Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative).
32.Youth that were involved with the foster care system were 8 times more likely to be at risk of becoming homeless.
33. Students who drop out of school are 10 times more likely to end up homeless than those who have graduated from high school.
34. The Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) reports that approximately 55.6% of Aboriginal people in Canadian cities are living in poverty.
35. Each night, about 8000 homeless people, that is, approximately 5 per 10,000 population, are sleeping in shelters in the 9 largest metropolitan areas of Canada.
36. 1,490 of the 14,000 people living in Canadian shelters are under 15 years of age. Shelter counts underestimate the number of homeless people because they do not include individuals who are sleeping on the street.
37. Compared to homeless adults and families, homeless youth have a significantly smaller number of shelters available.
38. Although there is no one cause for youth homelessness, most reasons can be grouped into 3 broad categories: family problems, economic problems, residential instability.
39. Estimates are that one-in-seven youths will leave home for the streets before the age of 18.
40. Homeless youth find it very difficult to meet their basic needs, so many resort to prostituting, stealing and other forms of crime to support themselves.
41. In Canadian families, 20% of all renters spend more than 50% of their income on rent and, as a result, are at risk of losing their housing.
42. The longer someone is homeless, the greater the risks of long term physical and emotional harm and the greater the cost to society.
43. The majority of homeless youth are heterosexual: 70% are heterosexual, 14.1% define themselves as bisexual, 4.6% as gay and 2.3% as lesbian and less than 1% as transgendered.
44. When youth become homeless, they don’t necessarily end up sleeping on street grates or in doorways. They stay in a variety of places. In a recent study, 60% were staying in youth shelters; 25% in apartments (staying with friends or “couch surfing”). 15% were sleeping on the streets, of which 4% were living in squats, and 9% in parks, alleys, and doorways.
45. A 1999 study on street youth found that 36% of street youth earn money by panhandling or squeegee’ing; 19% do break and enters or sell drugs; 18% receive social assistance; 17% are employed, and 10% do sex trade work.
46. A 1999 study found that generally homeless youth who were sex workers left home at a younger age, had been on the street the longest, were most likely to have grown up in at least one foster home, had the lowest educational credentials and left home because of problems pertaining to both physical and sexual assault.
47. When asked if they would like to find paid employment, 83.4% of homeless males and 87.8% of homeless females said “yes.” 35.5% would do just about any job and 51.8% felt that any job was better than welfare.
48. Reasons that street youth give about why they do not have work include: no fixed address, lack of work experi- ence, and no phone.
49. Some youth seek the streets for adventure—and are derisively labeled “weekend warriors” or “twinkies”—and eventually return home. Most street youth are there simply because there’s nowhere else to go.
50. Experts say that the vast majority of youth or children rarely leave happy homes for the streets. 40% of girls and 19% of boys left home because of sexual abuse.
51. In provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC, police harass street youth relentlessly, ticketing and arresting them for panhandling, squeegee’ing or loitering.
52. A Montreal study between 1995 and 2000, reported an alarming rate of death among street youth mostly caused by suicide and drug overdose. The homeless youth mortality rate was 11 times higher than the rate of the general population of Quebec.
53. While many Canadians feel empathy for the homeless, they don’t see it as a problem costing them much more than the few dollars they may give to panhandlers. A rough estimate suggests Canadians are spending about $1-billion a year in taxes to deal with the homelessness crisis.
54. The health care costs of a homeless person are approximately $4,714 a year; an average Canadian citizen uses $2,633 per year in publicly-financed health care services.
55. Comparing the costs for other social services: it costs: $250/night to keep an individual in a provincial correctional facility; $400/night on average in a psychiatric hospital, and between $60-$85 in a homeless shelter.
56. Homeless street youth need the same things all children and youth thrive on. They need roots, security, protection, commitment, understanding, and a great deal more patience than most kids. They need opportunities and choices.
57.Adolescentswhoarehomelessexistliterallyontheperipheryofsociety.They often gravitate toward isolated locations, such as abandoned areas of the city, hidden spaces in public buildings,and remote or inaccessible sites.
58. The foster care system often fails to help youth deal with the problems that caused them to leave home. When young people leave foster care and become homeless, they usually lack the support networks that other people rely on.
59. Some estimates of youth leaving alternative care, such as foster care, indicate that young people leaving care are 60 times more likely to be homeless than other young people and one-third of all young homeless people attempt suicide.
60. Street youth are those individuals who have fragmented all family or system ties, sleep in locations such as doorways, heating vents, ATM machine enclosures, bus terminals, railroad tunnels or platforms, public parks and in make-shift camps under bridges, and often engage in illegal survival strategies.
61. Some street youth are afraid of adult homeless shelters. They have reported experiencing violence, and others have reported having their belongings stolen.
62. Most homeless adolescents studied indicated that they felt safer staying on the streets in peer network (street families).
63. Homelessness does not occur as a result of a conscious choice (e.g., that the homeless don’t want to work). For some, the journey may have started early when they were committed to foster care through a family breakdown. Along the way, many of the services, supports and interventions that might have helped had been withdrawn by successive government cutbacks and program changes. Consequently, the homeless may well find themselves facing multiple problems (such as mental illness and substance abuse) along with the economic issues.
64. The homeless live in a very difficult environment. The housing options that are open are not always safe, be they shelters or rooming houses. They may have to share the streets and accommodation with people recently released from correctional institutions who may have a violent background. They may be subject to discrimination in finding alternative accommodation.
65. In the U.S., estimates indicate with at least one million youth on the streets and in shelters—and thousands more leaving juvenile justice, mental health facilities, and leaving foster care systems—the problem of youth homelessness continues to grow.
66. When looking at youth who have left foster care, a Canadian study found that for many homeless youth, housing alone would not be sufficient to resolve their homelessness. The “homelessness” that these youth experience often goes beyond the lack of shelter and includes the lack of employment and skills, low educational achievement and little social support.
67. Many youth in the foster care system are moved, on average, 6 times and this leads to a lack of a sense of “home.” The youth in this study illustrate to some extent how homelessness can be a profound experience—some youth stated that they had never had a sense of “home.”
68. About one-in-seven users of shelters across Canada is a child. Compared to children with permanent homes, homeless children suffer more from lack of educational opportunities, infection, obesity, anemia, injuries, burns, developmental delays and incomplete immunization; youth suffer more injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, and pregnancies.
69. Most homeless youth are poorly educated: 56% have grade 11 or less, 31% have grade 12, and only 12% have university or college or technical school education.
70. Having no fixed address means being excluded from all that is associated with having a home, a surrounding neighbourhood and a set of established community networks. Having no fixed address means being exiled from the mainstream patterns of day-to-day life.
71. Invisible homelessness is the most common form of homelessness in Canada. The invisible homeless are people in unsafe housing which does not meet health and safety requirements; people doubled up with friends and family members, sometimes illegally; or individuals doubled up with strangers or casual acquaintances to escape the street.
72. Street youth tend to shy away from institutions designed to help them, such as existing shelters and soup kitchens. This stems from a mistrust of the adult population and the lack of privacy and personal space in these environments.
73. It has been estimated that one-third of Canada's homeless population are youth. On any given night, that means close to 65,000 young people are without a place to call home.
74. Homelessness can be triggered by a sudden trauma or an accumulation of disadvantages. The traumas include domestic violence, sexual assault, job loss, bankruptcy, eviction, illness, accident or disease, the death of a partner or caregiver, discharge from a mental hospital or prison, and being "thrown out" by a partner or parent.
75. Homelessness may also be a result of an accumulation of disadvantages such as: persistent poverty, lack of skills and education, illiteracy, chronic illness or disability, discrimination, a history of sexual or emotional abuse, a history in the child welfare, mental health or criminal justice systems, and being born into a family with addiction or other dysfunctions.
76. People at risk of homelessness are often unaware of the resources available to them. Focus group research participants answering the question "How could your homelessness have been prevented?" were often quoted as saying "If I had only known that I could ."
77. Some homeless youth could best be described as “throwaways” – they are told to leave by their birth, adoptive or foster families and, once kicked out, have nowhere to turn.
78. Focus group research with youth and parents suggested that more education in the school system about homelessness would help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and would help reduce the stigma they feel among students who are not at the same risk.
79. Youth in focus groups suggested that the school system should spend more time on life skills as part of the regular curriculum: how to rent and keep an apartment, how to budget and shop for groceries, how to find and maintain relationships with health professionals, how to parent, and how to find and keep a job -- would serve all youth well, particularly young people who are homeless, youth who will be homeless when their foster care ends at age 18, or those who do not have healthy role models or family support and are moving out of the parental home.
80. Focus group participants revealed troubling accounts of discrimination from police, lawyers, landlords and health/social service workers based on the individual’s income, age, marital status, family status, race and/or ethnicity. This widespread discrimination has made it difficult for the homeless to access services and housing.
81. Street life is a violent environment for anyone, it is even more violent for homeless young people and women, and is often accompanied by multiple risks
82. People who use the temporary shelters or live in downtown hotels do not have an acceptable address for applying for jobs. They are socially isolated and are often embarrassed to let others know where they live.
83. Children fending for themselves on the street must find ways to eat; some scavenge or find exploitative physical work. Many homeless children are enticed by adults and older youth into selling drugs, stealing, and prostitution.
84. Drug use by children on the streets is common as they look for means to numb the pain and deal with the hardships associated with street life. Studies have found that up to 90% of street children use psychoactive substances, including medicines, alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, cannabis, and readily available industrial products such as shoe glue.
85. In 1992, the United Nations issued a Resolution on the Plight of Street Children, expressing concern over the emergence and marginalization of street children, and the acts of violence against them. The Resolution called for international cooperation to address the needs of homeless children and for enforcement of international child rights laws
86. Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) asserts that “States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” Homelessness denies each one of those rights.
87. Street youth in Canada were more likely to report having had sexual intercourse before the age of 13 and are at higher risk for many sexually transmitted diseases.
88. It has been estimated that between 12% and 32% of Canadian street youth are involved in prostitution.
89. Limited education, a lack of marketable job skills and the generalized emotional and cognitive instability associated with homelessness itself contribute to street youth’s dependency on the “street economy” (e.g. sex trade, panhandling, drug running) as their primary source of income to meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.
90. In a 2003 study of street youth, more than 35% reported they had dropped out of school or had been expelled from school permanently.
91. Street youth are likely to engage in risky health behaviors: 80% of street youth reported smoking daily, approximately 40% of street youth reported recent alcohol intoxication. Street youth who reported using one substance (alcohol, tobacco or drugs) were more likely to report using other substances (poly-drug use).
92. Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in street youth are more than 10 times those in the general youth population. On average, street youth reported having had no fewer than 17 partners in their lifetime. Street youth did not seem to modify their sexual behaviours after being diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted disease.
93. In a 2001 and 2003 monitoring period, male street youth reported an average of between 18 and 45 lifetime sex partners while females reported an average of between 4 and 21.
94. Other risky health practices include most street youth reporting not using a condom at their most recent sexual encounter with either a male or a female partner; more street youth reported not using a condom with a male partner than with a female partner.
95. Street youth were asked if they ever had obligatory sex – defined as having sex when feeling obligated to do so after receiving money, gifts, drugs or a place to sleep. More females reported having felt obliged to have sex in exchange for shelter.
96. The peers that make up a street youth’s social network are likely to be troubled themselves. The result is a social network of same-age peers that, while supportive, may influence their newer members to adopt risky behaviours and subsistence strategies.
97. Many homeless young people have lost respect for their parents or caregivers for failing to provide them with due care, nurturing and protection from abuse and family violence. As a result, these youth no longer accept the possibility of reuniting with their families. Life on the street can therefore become a solution to an intolerable family situation and other living environments.
98. Many experts on homelessness believe that it can only be resolved with the redistribution of the world’s goods and resources
99. One conclusion is that the best way to prevent youth homelessness is to stabilize families.
100. The longer someone is homeless, the greater the risks of long term physical and emotional harm and the greater the cost to society.
101. We can all make a difference in combating the problem of youth homelessness.