Youth are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population in Canada. Our understanding of why and how youth engage in street life has greatly expanded in recent years – the causes and consequences of youth homelessness are well documented in the literature. They include family dysfunction, abuse, trauma, exploitation, alienation, poverty, addiction, mental and physical illness, and service sector inadequacies. We also have some understanding of the barriers to disengaging from street culture, including addictions, trauma, discrimination, unemployment, and breaking ties with street culture and street friends. What we don’t understand is how young people transition away from homelessness and their experience navigating away from street life.
In an effort to better understand how young people make this transition, Drs. Jeff Karabanow (Dalhousie School of Social Work), Jean Hughes (Dalhousie School of Nursing) and Sean Kidd (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto) recently applied for and received research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for the 3-year mixed methods longitudinal study, “Exiting Street Life: Youth Trajectories out of Homelessness”. Kelly Fenn, a recent MA Health Promotion grad from the School of Health and Human Performance is working as the Research Coordinator, along with growing partnerships with numerous community street youth organizations in Halifax and Toronto.
Recruiting 30 formerly homeless youth aged 16-24 from both Halifax and Toronto, the study tracks youth over one year in time, exploring their lived experiences as they negotiate the individual, sociocultural and economic tensions of transitioning out of homelessness and street contexts and cultures. Using a mixed methods approach with qualitative semi-structured interviews and a series of quantitative survey tools, the project aims to better understand the lived experiences of young people once they have left street life.
Exploring the topics of resilience, strength, hope, survival, identity, and community, this study will contribute to a larger body of knowledge informing efforts to respond to the complex socio-economic needs of marginalized young people. A clear understanding of barriers and facilitators involved with exiting the streets will inform the development of effective interventions, supports, and policies.
For more information about this initiative, please contact Kelly Fenn by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (902) 494-2094.