Youth homelessness is a serious and growing issue in our community and for many communities across the world. What is causing this?
Instead of focusing on “causes”, research tells us that perhaps it is time to consider “pathways” into homelessness. This way, we are not looking for a universal one-size-fits-all explanation of youth homelessness. Rather, based on real accounts from youth who have experienced homelessness, we have come to understand that causes of homelessness are unique for each young person. — Ahmad Bonakdar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
There is an outdated and harmful assumption that youth who are at risk of or are experiencing homelessness can be “fixed”. Maybe they just need a job, or some education, or help with addictions. Then they can save up money, afford a place to live and they won’t be homeless anymore, right?
It’s not that easy.
…those systemic barriers that have caused each young person so much trauma still exist, and those barriers still exert trauma on them. Sometimes for the rest of their lives.
At Zero Ceiling, we talk about the systemic barriers that prevent [certain] young people from being able to access what they need to create the healthy, fulfilling, and independent life that we all deserve. When they come into our supportive housing and supportive employment program, Work 2 Live, people assume that it’s an easy transition into becoming a “contributing member of society”; if it doesn’t happen, there must be some moral failure on the part of the young person.
Well, those systemic barriers that have caused each young person so much trauma still exist, and those barriers still exert trauma on them. Sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Our job is to carve out space for each person to heal as best they can, and also to change those systems so they can find the places they fit into. This is a lifelong journey for some, and we are proud to support youth beyond the program with unconditional support and case management, even when they’ve graduated out of our housing or employment.
The pathways approach provides us with the necessary knowledge about how and when we should intervene. It paints a wider picture that tells us about missed opportunities. It helps us to recognize in what ways and when we could have intervened and prevented youth from becoming homeless. — Ahmad Bonakdar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
To learn more about the different pathways into youth homelessness, read this blog post from Homeless Hub: “Pathways into Youth Homelessness”.