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Homelessness among youth is a comprehensive, multi-faceted social problem in Canada. (Roebuck.2008). According to public health agency (2007) the estimated official number of homeless people in Canada ranges from 150,000 to 300,000, one third of which are youth of age 15 to 24 years.(Stewart et al.2010). Homelessness means living in outdoors and in abandoned building with unsafe situation. (Kisely et.al, 2008). The factors that leads youth into homelessness are family dysfunction, school related problems, need for more freedom and poverty; this issue is being addressed by the services that are available for them in the area of housing, income and support services. (Kisely, 2008). This study also includes the critical analysis of policies relevant to youth homelessness, anti oppressive organisational structure for the marginalised youth and recommendations and suggestions to prevent youth into homelessness.
The understandings about the homelessness among youth in Canada
The most significant reason that leads the young people into homelessness is family dysfunction. The family conflict may lead the young people into homelessness. This starts when youth have gone through emotional and physical conflict with their parents and also some youngsters leave their home due to lack of financial support from their parent. (Miller et al, 2008). On the other hand, lack of family functioning and support leads some youth into homelessness. Similarly, the situational factors like parental divorce or separation and death of the parents also make youth into a stage of homeless. Sometimes parent’s alcohol and drug consumption may lead youth in to homelessness condition. (Duroff,2004).
The poor school performance is another reason for the youth who leaves their home. The premature leaving of the school added to family conflict and the combination of these two factors leads them to leave home. Moreover, failing a grade in school, and problems with teachers or students also leads some youth into homelessness. Based on my understanding lack of education create them barrier in finding job. Later on it leads to extreme poverty and unemployment among the youth homeless. (Miller et al, 2008).
A strong sense of independence is the primary factor some of the youth leads to homelessness. In some cases youth are like to stay their own family but due to family conflict they like to stay away from the home. The desire for the more freedom sometimes youth leads into homelessness. And also, parents over interference to the youth’s personal matters may become the another reason for the youth to live their home.(Miler et al,2008)
The financial crisis of the family or poverty of the family leads to some youth into homelessness. The lack of available housing, limited employment opportunity, and insufficient wages also leads youth into homelessness. Moreover, lack of education sometimes creates barriers to youth find employment. The insufficient material needs of the money lead them into poverty. (Miler et al,2008).
Homelessness among youth is a growing concern in entire Canada. (Stewart et al. 2010). Eventhough Canadian government is offering some service to the youth homeless; their support needs and support interference preference always not match with services available to them. (Stewart et al. 2010). Moreover, youth homelessness are considered as vulnerable due to shortage of affordable housing, lack of employment or income, poverty, poor physical or mental health, reduced government support, and violence or abuse in the home. Stewart et al.2010 (as cited in Campaign, 2009; Laird, 2007) Furthermore, the pattern of life style brings them exposure to violence, neglect, chronic poverty, physical and sexual abuse, crime, drug and alcohol use, unemployment, and social isolation. (Stewart et al 2010 as cited in Naboss et al., 2004; Reid, Berman, & Forchuk, 2005). Apart from that, the homeless youth often reported with inadequate social relationships, conflict within their families, and exposure to violence, criminal peers, and abusive situations.( Stewart et al 2010 as cited in Haber & Toro, 2004; Reid et al., 2005). Therefore, the personal and structural reasons that contribute to oppression to find adequate housing for the youth should be addressed by anti oppressive approach of social work practice.
According to Martin (2002) one of the major reasons that leads young people into homelessness is lack of normal activities has to do with a lack of readiness and ability to seek and find paid employment. (Klodawsky et al.2006). The homelessness youth most of the time doesn’t show much interest to do any kind of physical activity due to lack of knowledge, skill and interest.
The lack of formal support contributes major challenges among homeless youth. In the most of the time homeless youth shows withdraw from the social network. This creates them barriers to know about the services available for them. The homelessness youth barriers to seeking services include denial problems, pressure to focuses on basic resources such as food, clothing and shelter, fear of not been taken as seriously, concerns about the confidentiality, and lack of knowledge about available services. In spite of all available services still they face discrepancies in available and needed service (Stewart et al, 2010).
The housing support helps the youth to stay in a safe situation. The homelessness youth improvement needed in shelters including additional beads, a home like environment, less fighting among themselves and caring staff. The income support helps them to gain financial support. Most of the youth needed financial needs is for the educational expense. Furthermore, most the homelessness youth needed information about the support services in the area of returning to school, skill training, getting a job, budgeting, and seeking counselling. Generally, the support service for the homelessness helps the youth to overcome the situation they are living now. (Stewart et al, 2010).
The strength and limitation of the social policy for youth homelessness
The social policies are necessary for the homeless youth to correct systemic and historic inequalities they are facing in the society. The social policy is important to homeless youth to overcome the systemic barriers they are facing in the affordable and secure housing, lack of income or income support services, and support services. (Hulchanski et al, 2009). In Canada the policies related to homelessness youth include housing policies and program which include tenant protection act and rent supplement units, emergency shelter policies, income assistance, deinstitutionalisation, social services and discharge of policies from correctional facilities. (Ministry of social development and economic security,2001).
The social hosing programs provide housing for the individuals and families who are unable to compete in the housing market. (Ministry of social development and economic security,2001). The social housing program gives benefit to the homeless youth to find better place to live but the insufficient supply of housing due to lack of new rental construction and demolition of existing affordable rental unit are create them less accessibility to the social hosing. The loss of significant number of affordable rental units resulted to tenant protection act. In Canada the most of the tenant and land lords are covered by this policy. According to this act a rental unit can be an apartment, a house, or a room in a rooming or boarding house. And the act also can apply to care homes and retirement homes. (Government of Ontario, 2010). The main critique about this act is that most of the time tenant wants to pay first and last month pay and it create barrier to youth to utilize this opportunity because of insufficient money. The housing cooperation of Ontario has portfolio of rent supplement unit in a private building; these units are available for the low income households. The rent supplement is a financial support directly paid to land lord by provisional government. The main critique about this policy is eligibility criteria of accommodation need the proof of Canadian residency and most of the homeless youth don’t have any document to prove their residency. (Ministry of social development and economic security,2001).
In Canada, the absence of permanent housing for the risk population emergency shelter policies for the homeless population. According to this act the police can use force to compel the homeless people to use shelters especially extreme whether alert. The emergency housing should not provide permanent housing options for the homelessness youth. According to homelessness action task force in Toronto, some of homeless people are using shelter as permanent housing these creates the availability of the beds less. Due to lack of privacy some homeless youth don’t prefer to stay in the shelter. The main critique about this act is the emergency shelters opposed to the development of permanent housing solution for the youth. (Ministry of social development and economic security, 2001).
There are lot of income assistance services are available for the person who are living in the street. The homelessness single person is eligible to receive $195 per month, on a month by month basis. These services are available for the individual who are living in the most vulnerable situation. Homeless youth who are staying in a shelter would not be eligible for income assistance because it is assumed that their needs would be fulfilled in the shelter. The main critique about this policy is that the eligibility criteria for the income assistance create barriers to the youngsters especially the age group of 16 and 17. This makes many youth to turn into illegal or uninvited source of income. (Ministry of social development and economic security, 2001).
The deinstitutionalisation policy offered by the provisional government after the dramatic decline of mental health beds in the psychiatric hospitals in Ontario. The deinstitutionalisation policy offers community based mental health services and addiction service for the homeless people. Deinstitutionalization is often credited with the decrease need of medical care and also it is the new beginning of psychiatric care. The deinstitutionalization process is together with the shortage of community-based care and related to the visible problems of homelessness. The major critique about this policy is that due to lack of societal interaction most of the homeless people are not aware about the mental health issues they are having and the services available for them. (Ministry of social development and economic security, 2001).
The social service policies are helping the individuals, who are insecurely housed to keep their housing and give assistance to the people who became homelessness. Usually these services are given by case managers, housing workers, and different type of people who are working in the social and housing sector. The social service agencies are giving referral service to the homelessness youth to find appropriate services according to their immediate needs. According to social service scheme, the homelessness youth are getting employment skill training and skill development program but due to budget cut many of these programs are cancelled by the social service agencies. The one of critical impact of this policy is that most of the time homelessness youth shows less interest for the skill development. (Ministry of social development and economic security, 2001).
The discharge policies from the correctional facilities help the homelessness youth find emergency shelters upon their release. This policy is made available to the people who are being released from the provisional correctional facilities. It ensured the people they have a place to go in the community. The discharge policy is authorised with the condition of release of the person from the jail. However, the authorised person could not compel the person who already finished their sentence to go in an emergency hostel. Moreover, the discharge plan is accessed by all offenders who are about to return the community. The major critique of this policy is that most of the time the young offenders don’t prefer to live again in an institutionalised setting. (Ministry of social development and economic security, 2001).
The strength and limitation of the anti oppressive social work practice
Anti oppressive approach is a form of social work practice to address the structural inequalities and social division of the people who are living in a particular social system. It tries to change organisational structure and people attitude about the particular issue. (Mullaly, 2010).’An anti-oppressive framework involves several key overarching tenets: awareness of the mechanisms of oppression, domination and injustice; acknowledgment of the structural elements at play in human behaviour; acceptance of diversity and difference; recognition of the complexity of power; and necessity for action.’ (Karabanow, 2004 as cited in Campbell, 2000). In the anti oppressive approach the homelessness among youth can be addressed by locality development, social development, active participation, structural definition of the situation, consciousness raising and social action. (Karabanow, 2004).
In the anti oppressive approach, the social development helps the person to address their needs in a collective way. The organisation that works based on the anti oppressive approach do not look for the street youth’s deviant behaviour such as criminal behaviour and drug addict on the contrary, it works for the holistic development of the person. The holistic approach helps the youth to learn values and respect themselves and others. Moreover, through the social development approach an organisation can make better understanding about the issues related to youth homelessness. The anti oppressive approach helps the youth to build self identity and strength to change things in their life. (Karabanow, 2004)
The active participation based on the anti oppressive approach helps the youth to design and implement the shelter plan which include youth resident represent the committees responsible for shelter policy. Moreover, there are several position available for street youth in the organisation especially the areas of self help, mutual aid group, peer mentoring and cooking. Participation within the organisation helps the youth to understand mainstream culture. The active participation in the organisation always associated with the acceptance and respect which make the marginalised youth feeling worthy and being needed. The active participation represent both street youth and workers to join together to construct a common vision and direction for the organisation. (Karabanow, 2004)
The anti oppressive organisation’s main insight is to make balance between the populations self constructed images about homelessness youth. The structural approach helps the organisation to believe that the social, political and economic factors of the youth push them into street life. The survival of the most youth on the street is due to lack of affordable and clean houses and adequate employment. The anti oppressive organisations always admit the street activities instead of criticising the street behaviour because the organisations place them within the large context of exploitation and victimisation. (Karabanow, 2004)
The conscious raising help the youth to share past, present and future goals and experience in genuine manner. Through the consciousness raising a youth can share experience to others and connect with deeper understanding of particular issue. In the anti oppressive practice, conscious raising involve an intimate and in-depth exploration of one’s action through a process of knowledge building, commitment and solidarity. (Karabanow, 2004 p.56). Furthermore, for the part of consciousness raising a person can critically self reflect about the situation they are facing now. Consciousness raising come out as an intimate process of exploring, accepting and ultimately reconstructing the ideas of one’s past, present and future orientation. (Karabanow, 2004 p.56). The anti oppressive organisations promote safe community settings where marginalised youth can build and rebuild a sense of identity, worth, and understanding of their immediate environments. (Karabanow, 2004 p.56).
In the anti oppressive framework an organisation move a step further to advocacy for the alienated and stigmatised people. Social action involves a commitment to the fundamental change in the society on the form of equal treatment for the marginalised youth. The social action endeavours includes when the street youth to petitioning in the provisional leaders to increase the number of affordable housing and youth employment. Through the social action movement, the service users and service providers try to achieve specific goals based on the common needs of the population. Based on the anti oppressive approach social action is sense of commitment and trust for the social development. Through the social action the marginalised group also can participate in the societal activities. (Karabanow, 2004)
The anti oppressive approaches help the organisation to build safe and respectful environment for the marginalised populations. Moreover it helps the marginalised youth to identify the grass root of the problem and the structural inequalities they are facing in the society. The anti oppressive practice at the structural level tries to change intuitional arrangements, social process and social practice that work together to benefit the dominant group at the expense of subordinate group. (Mullay,2010)
The anti oppressive is useful to identify systemic inequalities, discrimination, and violence faced by marginalised youth based on their gender, age, race, poverty, disability, sexual orientation, immigration or aboriginal status. Moreover the anti oppressive approach is very useful to understand how these types of structural inequalities make possibility to youth become homeless. The anti oppressive social work practice is necessary for reconceptualise the idea of power. (Mullaly, 2010). This help the marginalised youth to recognise that how age and poverty create them barrier to find appropriate housing.
The anti oppressive practices in the structural level help the marginalised youth to find alternative services and organisation. According to these services marginalised homeless youth can connect homeless people in the mainstream organisation. The mainstream organisation helps them to find adequate solution to the problem in a collective response. The collective response always gives immediate response to the problem. (Mullaly, 2010.)
The recommendations and suggestions for the homelessness youth
‘The four primary recommendation to reducing the homelessness among youth of includes build on the youths’ optimism and determination through the development of peer networks; mobilize and support interest in education and employment through contacts with employers; support ties to family, including extended family or families of choice when available; and use current living arrangements or create living arrangements which can facilitate education and employment.'(Miller etal,,2008)
The hopefulness is very important for the youth to gain strength to mind.. Building strength is very important among the homelessness youth because the studies conducted by Millier et al 2008 shows that to stay longer as homelessness made them remain as homelessness. The strength can build among homelessness youth through counselling in the school, shelters and other and other social service agencies and also to the youth support group and networks. The most of the homeless youth consider their situation is temporary and look for the future development, this shows the clear need of the building the sense of optimism and determination among youth especially in the areas of education and finding a job. (Miller etal,,2008)
The organisation that works for the homelessness should support and mobilize the youth to gain interest in education and employment. The lack of education creates employment barriers to the youth but the part time work helps them to continue their education. The marginalised youth is looking to improve their ability to work through education. This shows necessity of the guidelines for youth employment appropriate schooling and training. Moreover, the alternative schooling option also helps the youth to satisfy their expressed needs in the education. This shows the clear need of more educational grants and subsidies for the marginalised youth. (Miller etal,,2008)
A support tie with family is very important for the marginalised youth. The family dysfunctions are one of the major reasons for the youth to leaving their home. Family and friends are able to provide assistance in the accommodations, financial and emotional support. Generally youth has lots friends in the variety of fields. The family counselling is very important to prevent homelessness among youth. Through the family counselling the worker can prevent family systems break down in the first place. (Miller etal,,2008)
The living arrangement and support service for education and employment is the most important wanted thing for the youth homelessness. The current living arrangement creates barriers to youth in education and finding employment. And some of the marginalised youth think that living or socialising with similar issue having peers is not favourable for their development. They also express similar concern in the shelter system. On the other hand, the marginalised youth express to live in a both positive and supportive environment. This can accomplish by the government through development of teen program that offer alternative living arrangement and positive peer groups through foster or group homes. (Stewart et al, 2010)
Hosing is the fundamental right of the human being. The main recommendation of this study is to improve housing facilities for the youth. Homelessness sometimes leads to the offending and victimisation. The government also should arrange social and income support services for the youth. Through the counselling service the worker can guide the homeless into proper track. Moreover government should spent more money for the social service who are giving services for the youth. The funding cutbacks always affect the service agency to provide adequate services for the youth. And also federal government also organise some support services for the youth homeless. (Stewart et al, 2010).
The community based approaches is necessary for the homeless youth to satisfy their needs especially in the areas of housing, income, and support. The positive attitude of the social service agency helps the youth to come out of the situation they are living now. Moreover the alternative service of the agency, especially in the area of skill training and alternative schooling also help the youth to overcome the systemic barriers they are facing in the society.
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