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Youth Homelessness is described as a condition and experience of young people who are between the age of 13-24 and are living without their parents or caregivers but are unable to acquire a safe and stable residence. They temporarily living in emergency shelters, hostels, with friends, in ‘squats’, or spend their nights outdoors. (Youth Homelessness in Canada., 2018). These youths are addressed by different terms like street youths, street kids, runaways, homeless youth etc. According to Without a Home: The National Youth Homeless Survey, total homeless population contained 20% of youth homeless in Canada and in a given year approximately 35,000-40,000 youth experience homelessness. In youth homelessness, 67% are males and 37% are females who are without shelters. 77.5% of young people who left their homes are due to the inability to get along with their parents (Youth., n.d.).
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In current scenario, there are no signs that these statics are declining because families have more conflicts than past and kids leave their homes because of violence and any kind of abuse. Moreover, today’s youth is adventure loving who do not want to study or get a job but rather want to explore the world and loved their independent life. Unfortunately this excitement is not last longer and harsh circumstances like hunger, sickness, sexual, mental & physical assault push them in to homelessness (Why do Young People Become Homeless?., n.d.).
There is variety of reasons behind this alarming issue but here I would like to state three basic causes of street youths. First is individual/relational factors which includes family conflict, violence, abuse and substance abuse. The second is structural factors including the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, discrimination and inadequate education. Last but not the least is systems failures where systems fail youth, including the child welfare, mental health, and criminal justice systems (Collin, S.B., n.d.).
Youth homeless people has adverse health effects and it is a challenge for this population to maintain personal hygiene. Greater incidences of illness, injury, increased rate of STIs, pregnancy, substance abuse, mental health concern, mortality, poor nutrition, dental and periodontal disease, and increase risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders are seen among this population. Moreover, due to poor hygiene lice, scabies, fungal infection, foot blisters, sores are common. Sex and reproductive health is also suffers as youth streets are engaged in sex with multiple partners in exchange of food, money, shelters and drugs. Pregnancy in girls between the age 14-17 is the major outcome of sexual patterns. In addition, sexually transmitted deadly diseases like HIV, hepatitis, syphilis are experienced by youth at high level. Social forces such as addictions, family breakdown, and mental illness, lack of available low-cost housing, poor economic conditions, and insufficient mental health services impacts levels of homelessness dramatically (Kulik, D. M., Gaetz, S., Crowe, C., & Ford-Jones, E. L., 2011).
For homeless youth, it is not easy to get medical assistance. The reason behind this is high cost of medical care and system strain. Other barriers to health care is no health cards and identifications, lack of transportation and hard to follow dietary plan. Justice system incarcerate young homeless people because incarceration and youth homelessness are strongly related to one other. Street youths are connected with other issues such as violence, mental illness, use of drugs and many more. There are more chances of youths in the child welfare system that end up with homelessness. This is because children are not provided with adequate support by child welfare to deal with the brutal issues like sexual and physical abuse, family dissolution, family breakdown, substance abuse etc. Moreover, placements from place to place inhibits youth to develop bonds and become barrier un provision of treatment and support which results in runaway children.
‘Youth Housing and Shelters’ program run by ‘Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary’ with the goal of helping youth experiencing homelessness gain the skills to return to their families or to live independently in the community. ‘Housing’ program offer a comprehensive support system to help youth permanently end their experience of homelessness. Through ‘Shelter Services’, Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary provides temporary or urgent support for youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness. ‘The Prevention and Outreach stream’ at Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary offers support and advocacy to vulnerable youth and their families. Operating through a natural support lens, they serve youth between the ages of 14-24 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in connecting to the supports they need to successfully transition to adulthood.
A client can reach to the Boys & Girls Club of Calgary by visiting them at Avenue 15, located at 938 – 15 Avenue SW, which is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week (Programs., n.d.).
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‘Homelessness Prevention’ program introduced by Inn from Cold has a vision to see a community where no child is or family is homeless. When an individual facing a crisis this organization help them by partner with a collective of agencies to remove barriers and ensure that family stays housed. Their goal is that if they prevent children from experiencing homelessness, they can prevent the cycle of homelessness from ever beginning. One can use their services by calling them at *211 for immediate assistance. If a person is in crisis, call the Distress Centre at 4032664357 or visit them at 110-11 Avenue SE, Calgary (Our Work., n.d.).
To overcome this problem, I believe a potential solution is preventing youth homelessness and reuniting families. If children lives with their parents they feel safe & secure and they would less likely leave their homes. Also, there should be a teaching program for parents where they learn parents skills and make better relationships with their children who are between 13-17 years. This kind of coaching is provided through phone consultations, support groups and in-home family counseling. Moreover, outreach staff help to reconnect the youth streets with their parents and provide them a strategic help can improve family dynamics.
This prevention and reunion with family will be helpful because it reduces the demands of costly services like housing, medical care, and decrease the incidents of sexual assaults and violence at streets (Lightfoot, J., 2018).
The potential barriers in implementing this solution is that due to dispersed population it is hard to find parents of runaway children and reunite them. Finding parents and providing counselling and parenteral skills to adults who are at the risk of homelessness is hard and costly. Funding is another barrier as funders have divergent expectations about services and target population. Moreover it is not promising that after reunion of parents and the children they stay together forever and never leave their homes again.
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