Youth homelessness refers to young people between the ages of 13 and 24 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.

The youth homeless population is also diverse and certain significant sub-populations of youth are over-represented, including Aboriginal youth and in some cities like Toronto, black youth. Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or transsexual make up 25-40% of the youth homeless population, compared to only 5-10% of the general population.

Urban Indigenous Peoples experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate and make up a significant percentage of people experiencing homelessness in cities. Homelessness amongst Indigenous Peoples can be traced back to historical trauma, oppression, racism and discrimination. [content from homelesshub.ca]

A national study of Indigenous youth homelessness in Canada found that:

  • Indigenous homeless youth are at greater risk than non-Indigenous homeless youth
  • Victimization and distress are particularly high among female and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queen, two spirit youth
  • Child protection involvement is strongly associated with risk in this population
  • Policy imperatives include child protection policy and culture-specific intervention

The study was designed to address the need for more detailed information about Indigenous homeless youth, a group overrepresented in the homeless population, using a national-level data set. Overall, such findings reinforce calls for Indigenous-specific interventions for these populations—including policy-driven prevention initiatives to address the legacy of colonization.

Taylor Shuttleworth is one of four Aboriginal Youth Navigators working with Sasamans Society, a Campbell River-based organization offering support to Indigenous families, youth and children. Listen and/or download below.

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RELATED | Study sees link between foster care, youth homelessness in Canada (Penticton Western News, Aug. 9, 2017)

Image (top): People First Media/iStockphoto