Quarter of homeless youths end up back on street

by | Sep 30, 2014 | News

A homeless youth takes shelter under a bridge. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

A homeless youth takes shelter under a bridge. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

By Jacob Wilson-Hajdu

Homelessness is hard for any person, but especially for youths.

Homeless youth meet many barriers getting into housing and staying housed. A recent study conducted by the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health found that nearly a quarter of youth housed end up back on the streets.

“If it’s regular market housing, I think it’s those basic life skills like how obtain an apartment and pay your rent regularly, that is missing,” Brad King, program manager of the Thunder Bay Shelter House, told Humber News. “A lot of youth that we dealt with have lived in foster care or with mom and dad and life has been sort of chaotic.”

The CAMH report outlines problems homeless youths may have with housing such as discrimination, mental health issues, addictions, finical stability and many other variables.

“For housing there is not a lot of places where homeless youth can be housed,” King said. “The number one issue that I have seen with youth with housing is youth being aged out of the system.

“So a youth will be in a program and they will turn 18, and then the program will be like, ‘You turned 18, tough,’” he said.

However, homeless youth don’t necessarily have to jump into market housing from off the street or shelter. Many youth are more successful when they access supportive housing, said King.

“Supportive housing can look like a lot of things such as the managed alcohol program, having some sort of staffing or programming in place with the housing, even having a worker that comes through and checks up on things,” King said.

The John Howard Society is an example of supportive housing. The facility is for people over the age of 18, but their definition of youth goes up as old as 24 to 29 years of age.

“Our housing is supportive and transitional,” said Colleen Peters, faculty at the John Howard Society. “So it bridges the gap for someone who is from the shelter or on the streets, providing them the opportunity to build skills on successful living and then we assist them finding permanent housing when available.”

Homeless youth may face many challenges when entering permanent housing, according to Peters.

“I think the major barriers of youth maintaining housing is the life skills that haven’t been developed and often are assumed by individuals who are independent and on their own,” said Peters.

But there are some things that can be taken into consideration to ensure that they remain off the streets and in their permanent housing arrangement.

“Well I think that some of the key components of youth maintain housing is making sure there is on going support,” she said.

“It is one thing to just find a youth housing but there also has to be someone there to teach youth how to maintain the space of living, and making sure that you have ongoing access the youth has to specialized services” Peters said.