Canadian Children's Rights Council
Conseil canadien des droits des enfants
Homeless Children and Youths in Canada

Homeless Youth in Canada

Quote from the Canadian Government report on homeless people

"Thousands of children run away from home each year in Canada.   In 1995, for example, 75% of the 56,749 missing children who were reported to the police were runaways.  Police departments say that, although 90% of these runaway children return home within 60 days of leaving, the others never go back. Alarming as these figures are, runaways account for only a portion of the homeless youth population, which also includes young people living in shelters with their mother or both parents.  The 1987 CCSD survey found that 11.5% of the people in the shelters documented were under the age of 16.  Street or homeless youth tend to range in age between 12 and 24, the girls being generally younger and the boys older.(11)

The situation of homeless youth, as portrayed in the data from the relevant services, is clearly not encouraging.  Several researchers and field workers have noted in this regard that the street children and runaway youth use various strategies to survive when living on the street or running away: staying with friends, engaging in prostitution, and committing offences.  And the longer they are homeless, the more likely they are to commit offences in order to survive.

Mistreatment is often cited as a factor in youth homelessness.  A number of studies have confirmed that many homeless young people have been victims of sexual, physical or psychological abuse.  A 1992 study by social service agencies in the Ottawa-Carleton region indicated that 75% of the street children interviewed had left home because of sexual assaults or physical and/or psycho-emotional abuse.  However, living on the street is no protection; although street life is a violent environment for anyone, it is even Remore violent for homeless young people and women, and is often accompanied by multiple risks.

Again, however, more than one factor is associated with youth homelessness. The literature on the subject commonly links changes in the job market, particularly the growing use of casual labour, to the increased vulnerability of young people. Casual, unskilled employment in the service sector often does not provide the security and wages needed to acquire secure housing.   Many young people are not managing to earn enough income from employment to provide themselves with stable accommodation.  Given the threshold skills that have been required for most jobs since the 1980s, access to the job market is especially difficult for those without specialized training or much academic achievement.

The growing presence of young people among the homeless is a phenomenon noted by virtually everyone in the field.  However, there is much work to be done before we have an adequate understanding of why this is the case in Canada."

Hep C prevalent among homeless youth

CBC- Saskatchewan, April 23, 2004

SASKATOON - A study of homeless youth in Saskatoon has come up with some disturbing findings.

Nearly 10 per cent of the young people who took part in the research tested positive for hepatitis C. That's more than double the rate of any other Canadian city where the disease has been studied.

WEB SITE: Hepatitis C: Health Canada

The research was conducted by Saskatoon community health nurse Jocelyn Andrews. It was the first study to focus on street kids rather than all drug users in the community.

Andrews also discovered that a drug routinely prescribed for children with an attention deficit disorder was abused by many of the 186 homeless kids who were studied.

"What we saw in this subset of this street youth population is injection drug use is a risk for hep C, but what we found in Saskatoon is that use of Ritalin by injection was strongly associated with the hepatitis C virus."

Andrews says the jury is still out on the role a needle-exchange program could play in reducing infection in youth. Most users of needle exchanges are in their 20s or older and just having a clean needle is not the answer.

"The needle-exchange service offers just the needle," Andrews says. "With hep C we know it's readily transmitted through not only the syringe that people are using to inject, but also the other paraphernalia that goes on with that practise: the water, the filter, the spoon."

Andrews says there's a positive spinoff from this study. The kids who tested positive for hepatitis C have now been told where they can get medical help.

Government of British Columbia

NEWS RELEASE- For Immediate Release - April 14, 2008


VANCOUVER - Premier Gordon Campbell was joined by provincial and community partners today to celebrate a $5 million funding partnership for a major expansion to Covenant House Vancouver, a shelter and resource centre for homeless youth.

"The services provided by Covenant House make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of young, at-risk British Columbians every year," said Campbell. "Transitional housing can be the turning point for homeless youth. This project will get more young people off the streets and into a secure environment while they get the help they need to plan for healthier futures." Read More ..