Barriers to Employment for Homeless Youth


About Danielle

Danielle is the Support Services Manager at Covenant House Toronto overseeing the Job Centre, the in-house high school, Pastoral Services and our highly successful Cooking For Life culinary arts training program. Danielle is particularly passionate about finding employment opportunities for homeless youth.

BarrierAheadHelping youth at Covenant House find employment can be extremely challenging yet very rewarding. The barriers our youth face while trying to penetrate today’s market make the task so much more complicated.

Covenant House is actively working to help our youth through this difficult process by providing employment counselling, assistance with job search and access to training programs.




Top 10 reasons why homeless youth struggle to get jobs

1. No stable address

Employers need addresses to process payroll, collect personal information and establish emergency contacts. Having no permanent address can be poorly perceived by employers and embarrassing for our youth.

2. Emotional instability

Our youth have often experienced traumatic events and great losses in their lives before coming to our shelter. These events can be accompanied by depression, low motivation and poor self-esteem.

3. Limited education

Most homeless youth have been brought up in very unstable environments, which can lead to breaks in their education. Many employers are looking for a minimum of a Grade 12 education.

4. Poor presentation

Homeless youth tend to have little to no appropriate clothing for job searching. They also have less access to facilities to maintain their hygiene and are often unable to even get a good night’s sleep.

5. Transportation

Transportation to appointments and interviews costs money. Most homeless youth are more concerned about ensuring they find food and shelter, let alone figure out how to get from A to B.

6. Limited computer and phone access

Job searching today is much different from the past, where pounding the pavement was effective. Most employers today want to connect via email, telephone and social networks.

7. Lost ID

It can be challenging to maintain your belongings when homeless. Often, the first thing that happens on the street is that personal ID is lost or stolen.

8. Broken family

Many people get their first job through family connections. Our youth often don’t have the benefit of networking amongst family, friends and community to secure employment. Many of them have only themselves to rely on.

9. Challenging market

Due to the changes in our economy over the last few years, youth unemployment is at 14.7%–over twice the overall rate. Our youth are at an even greater disadvantage as they compete with experienced and educated adults for entry level positions.

10. Lack of hope

Homeless youth have been let down, heartbroken and disappointed by many of the adults in their lives. This creates a sense of hopelessness in our youth. Without the support and nurturing of caring adults, they find it hard to believe that life can be more rewarding.

Employment is critical to achieving independence. This is why Covenant House is committed to supporting homeless youth gain employment. With your help, we work with our youth to address all of these challenges, and more.

4 thoughts on “Barriers to Employment for Homeless Youth

  1. These reasons are entirely accurate. Teens have so many issues with trust and insecurity. They may have gone through extremely serious home issues, left school for whatever reason. They need support and understanding. We can all help to change this.

  2. I don’t live in Toronto anymore but now live not too far away in Mississauga. I wonder now that I have some physical challenges after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia if there are programs where in exchange for help taking my laundry bags up and down the stairs for me I could let then drop by a few days each week to use the computer so that they have consistent ability to contact job offers etc . Most of my 5 children have grown and have their own place now but I still have a nephew that stays with me currently and my youngest daughter aged10. My oldest daughter is currently taking her college courses to become a police officer and lives in the next city over in Oakville. IM so proud that as a single mother of two she has done so well to set goals, boundaries all while raising two children which of course I love the chance to babysit when ever she can get extra work here and there.In the past many kids have had issues at home that left them with no where to live so we many times with their parents permission had then stay with us until either the kids made their own way and thankfully many just needed time for everyone to calm down and would end up going back home almost always on such better terms. I miss my large family Im on 52 but without my car anymore may it REST IN PEACE. I would love help growing a small garden and to teach someone in turn how to do so for themselves and it would be a blessing to have help bringing groceries home which I would far prefer to give half the funds I would have been forced to spend on a taxi, Here in peel I have worked as a Driving Instructor, school bus driver Taxi Driver etc all that required criminal checks which I have always passed with flying colours. If you know of any programs in Mississauga that could team up my knowledge , skills and now needs with some physical help around the home so as to keep my pain down and flexibility up to its best with just a little support please let me know. I don’t have a lot of money living on a pension from CPP now but if I could I would also love to look into acquiring the skills by taking whatever courses required to possible have a young person that needs a place to stay move in. My 16 year old son is currently in a boarding school out in Ottawa and has already started an apprenticeship as well as his oldest brother lives out in the city of Ottawa in the public school board so this may well be his last summer at home. I have a very friendly small dog which seems to have an affinity for reaching out to youth and making them feel better. I also read somewhere recently that homeless youth find it hard to find a place to stay or work that will accommodate their pet. Small pocket type pets are no problem at all. We are limited to one dog living here at a time but with good manners my daughters dog has visited for a few weeks at a time. We currently don’t have a cat and can have up to two. Years ago I worked at a groomers and could help teach basic skills. Many years ago I had to leave home when I was only 10 years old. I did not look that young at all and was one of the lucky ones to get waitress jobs and the like and learned to drop by the more up scale parties to sneak in and get a quick shower. I had several frightening close calls and I hope I have passed on to my own children that I forever promise to never judge so long as they never hide anything from me or I wont know enough to find then and help them should they ever need me. I do hope you can refer me to an agency that may have a programs that could help me help someone else at the same time.

    • Covenant House Toronto

      Hi Heather-Jean, Thank you for your message and kind offer. We don’t currently have a program that would connect youth with individuals in the community who need assistance. We appreciate you taking the time to share your story.

  3. So true! In this age of industrialization, competition, stress, tension, both youth as well as adults happens to face difficulties which eventually gives rise to numerous issues like anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem. Thanks for sharing the info! I will definitely share this with a few friends and relatives.

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