September 23, 2020

The National Youth Homelessness Survey

Stephen Gaetz; Bill O’Grady; Sean Kidd; Kaitlin Schwan

The Without a Home study is the first pan-Canadian study of young people who experience homelessness. With 1,103 respondents from 47 different communities across 10 provinces and territories, this study’s sample size has enabled us to conduct detailed analyses and to draw important conclusions.

Without a Home demonstrates that with respect to youth homelessness, we are waiting much too long to intervene. In many jurisdictions, services for young people who experience homelessness are not available until they are 16 or even 18. The evidence presented here suggests that by that time, a lot of damage has already occurred.

In this report, we outline the need for a prevention-focused approach that prioritizes systems integration and Housing First for Youth (HF4Y). Our current systems tend to focus on the provision of supports downstream, when young people are much older. Rather than focusing on preventing the problem or reducing the negative outcomes of youth homelessness, we are more likely to wait for a major rupture or crisis, or when the problems facing the youth become much more acute. This report vividly demonstrates the suffering caused by this approach: housing precarity, violence, marginalization, health challenges, and social exclusion.

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