Youth Employment

While meaningful employment is key to independent living, getting and keeping a job can be among the toughest challenges faced by homeless youth.

Most homeless youth lack enough education, job experience, life skills, and stability to find and maintain employment. The drop-out rate for homeless youth is 53 percent, compared to the nine percent national rate.[1] For homeless kids who often have no phone, permanent address, appropriate clothes or resumes, job hunting can prove frustrating and futile.

But even with those tools, homeless kids often can’t muster the confidence to land a job. Many have never known the encouragement and support that most of us got at home. Often their experiences at home and/or on the street have left them with little self-esteem or belief that they can succeed.

If they do manage to make it through the door, many homeless kids have no experience or role modeling to help them navigate the workplace or meet the demands of time management and structure.

It is very challenging for youth to maintain employment while homeless. As a result, young people in Canada generally, and homeless youth in particular, are at a severe disadvantage in today’s job market. Over 75 percent of youth in a recent national survey indicated they were unemployed, compared to 13 percent among youth in the general Canadian public.[1]

In today’s uncertain economy, homeless kids’ struggle for work has become even more daunting. Trends like the growth of lower-paid, temporary jobs with no benefits, the shrinking manufacturing sector, increased outsourcing of low skill-level jobs to developing countries and reduced public sector jobs are all impacting their prospects. Many workers with more skills and training are working in the jobs that might have been available to homeless youth a generation ago.

At Covenant House, we have a job centre where youth can connect with vocational support workers. We help youth with resumes, interviews and applications, as well as workshops on their rights and responsibilities as employees. Youth have access to computers, phones and office-appropriate clothing. We also have a network of employers who are interested in hiring our youth.

Our culinary arts training program, Cooking for Life, is achieving remarkable success at setting homeless youth on a fulfilling, sustainable career path. Led by a professional chef instructor, the pre-employment program trains young people for entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry through hands-on experience.

[1-2] Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Kidd, S., & Schwan, K. (2016): Without A Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

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