Na­tional study tar­gets youth home­less­ness

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD -

OTTAWA — A first-of-its-kind study in Canada has painted a na­tional pic­ture of home­less youth and drawn a link to the fos­ter care sys­tem that re­searchers say could be play­ing a more ac­tive role in keep­ing young peo­ple off the streets.

The study found nearly three out of ev­ery five home­less youth were part of the child wel­fare sys­tem at some point in their lives, a rate al­most 200 times greater than that of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Of those with a his­tory in the child wel­fare sys­tem, al­most two of ev­ery five re­spon­dents even­tu­ally “aged out” of pro­vin­cial or ter­ri­to­rial care, los­ing ac­cess to the sort of sup­port that could have kept them from be­com­ing home­less, the study found.

The re­sult is that Canada is cre­at­ing a group of young peo­ple who are at higher risk of be­com­ing home­less be­cause they lack re­sources when com­ing out of fos­ter care, said Stephen Gaetz, the study’s co-au­thor and direc­tor of the Cana­dian Ob­ser­va­tory on Home­less­ness.

The study re­leased Wed­nes­day comes months be­fore dozens of cities will take part in the sec­ond, fed­er­ally or­ga­nized point-in-time count of the home­less pop­u­la­tion that will in­clude a fo­cus on young peo­ple.

The first fed­eral point-in-time count last year asked re­spon­dents for their ages, but changes to the ques­tion­naire are com­ing for the 2018 count to help com­mu­ni­ties that choose to put ex­tra at­ten­tion on tar­get­ing the youth home­less pop­u­la­tion in­clud­ing when some­one first be­came home­less.

The sur­vey also will now in­cludes ques­tions about im­mi­grants and refugees, as well as gen­der iden­tity to bet­ter help cities co-or­di­nate and plan ser­vices or, in the case of new­com­ers to Canada, whether there may be “an is­sue that can be ad­dressed up­stream.”

The first count last year in­cluded 32 cities. More cities have sug­gested they are in­ter­ested in tak­ing part in next year’s count.

All of the data will feed into the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s anti-poverty strat­egy that will tar­get vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions like youth. Mathieu Fil­ion, a spokesper­son for So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Du­c­los, said the gov­ern­ment will look at the youth home­less study re­leased Wed­nes­day to see how its rec­om­men­da­tions can be worked into the na­tional anti-poverty plan.

The re­port urges the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to fo­cus on pre­vent­ing youth home­less­ness — par­tic­u­larly among In­dige­nous youth — and on prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries to fo­cus on “af­ter care” by pro­vid­ing sup­port as needed un­til age 25.

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