youth homelessness

The problem of youth homelessness has reached crisis proportions in Canada,[1] but the plight of street kids remains largely misunderstood.

Across the country, in large and smaller communities alike, vulnerable young people find themselves with no place to call home – couch-surfing with friends, staying in shelters, in squats or on the street in alleys, doorways or parks.

At any time during the year as many as 35,000 youth in Canada are without a place to call home.[2]

In Toronto, it is estimated that there are as many as 2,000 on a given night.[3]

Contrary to the stereotype that kids are on the street because they don’t want to live by their parents’ rules, most have fled or been forced out of homes where there is abuse and neglect.[4]Mental health issues are also a major factor in youth homelessness. At Covenant House, we estimate about 35 percent of youth using our services are coping with some form of mental illness.

Homeless kids come from every part of the country and every background. On average, street youth first leave home at 15.[5] About half of homeless kids come from middle- and upper- income families.[6]

While young people may think running to the street is a solution, they soon find it can lead them on a dangerous, and often deadly, path. Desperate and alone, the young are easy prey to those who wait to lure them into drugs, prostitution and gangs.

Another Canadian study found homeless youth are up to 40 times more likely to die young than their peers.[7]

So why don’t homeless kids just get a life?

With no fixed address, regular meals, clean clothes or showers, it’s hard to imagine going to school or finding and keeping a job. Beyond the obvious, most homeless kids lack the education, job experience or life skills to move to independence.

But perhaps their greatest challenge is their lack of the self-worth and the confidence to believe that they can succeed. Homeless kids have a lot of potential, what they often lack is opportunity and hope.

What homeless kids need is a wide range of services and support to become productive and successful adults.

[1] Youth Homelessness in Canada: The Road to Solutions, Raising the Roof, 2009.

[2] Homeless Hub

[3] No Way Home, The Fifth Estate, CBC, 10 March 2004.

[4] 101 Things You Need To Know About Youth Homelessness, St. Thomas University, NB, 2006.

[5] St. Thomas University, 101 Things.

[6] St. Thomas University, 101 Things.

[7] St. Thomas University, 101 Things.

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Facts & Stats

There are 10,000 homeless youth in Toronto each year

Homeless youth are forty times more likely to die than other youth

70% of homeless youth are fleeing homes with abuse and neglect

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