Why a plan for youth?
Youth homelessness is an issue that is similar to yet distinct from homelessness in general, and our understanding of and solutions to the issue must be distinct as well.
• Youth are in the process of transitioning toward adulthood and may not have acquired personal, social and life skills that make independent living possible.
• Youth tend to seek access and respond to services and supports differently than other homeless individuals.
• They often avoid the homeless-serving system out of fear of authorities.
• Youth have particularly challenging issues, and require targeted responses to be rehoused.
• For youth under the age of 19, the situation is complicated by the obligation of families and/or the government to care for them and provide for their basic needs.
• For youth involved with the Child Intervention System, these issues are further magnified if healthy transitions are not prioritized. Many are waiting until they turn 16, with the “plan” to get out of the system and then they could be homeless.
Youth living on the street or couch surfing become entrenched in a risky lifestyle very quickly, due to:
• Quickly developing new social networks with other couch surfing or youth involved in less productive activities
• Substance abuse issues for themselves or within the family.
• Losing ties with the education system.
Homelessness is a dangerous, unstable lifestyle for youth, characterized by a number of high-risk, negative experiences, including: • Violence, victimization, physical and sexual abuse • Involvement with police and the justice system • Criminal activity • Stress, depression, anxiety disorders and suicide. Those that go from shelter to couch to hospital to remanded situations experience a cycle of homelessness.