On September 30th, potential solutions to youth homelessness will be explored at A Long Way To Go: an event for youth, policy makers, researchers, practice leaders and the public to discuss solutions and challenges in relation to youth transitioning out of homelessness. This is a CAMH event in collaboration with LOFT, Covenant House, and SKETCH.
Click here to join us on September 30th!
It will also be a launching pad for new research done in collaboration with the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University in Halifax about possible solutions and opportunities for youth to transition out of homelessness.
We spoke with Sean Kidd, Assistant Professor at University of Toronto’s Psychiatry Department and one of the lead investigators on the research project, about why the conversation about youth homelessness should be focused on solutions rather than the problems.
SKETCH: The transition of youth from homelessness is often overlooked in Canadian homelessness discourse, why is it such an important issue?
Sean: This issue is important for a number of reasons. Generally, there has been far too much attention given to describing the problem of youth homelessness rather than its solutions. The enormous efforts made by youth and the services they connect with are far too often undone when supports disappear once housing is found. At this critical time young people who have left the streets face many challenges, ranging from many levels of discrimination due to their history of homelessness, poverty, fragmented work and education histories, and in many instances trauma and other mental- and physical-health challenges. If we are to help more people exit the streets and build upon the efforts and ingenuity of the youth affected and the services that assist them, we need to have a better understanding of what sees this process through–not just to housing but to a decent quality of life that means a permanent exit from severe poverty and victimization.
Graphic on how long youth participate in street culture from Raising the Roof’s Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Road to Solutions (2009)
SKETCH: Do you believe that art is a tool that youth can use to help transition out of homelessness? If so, how?
Sean: Engaging the creative process through the arts is a critical tool in this area–as many SKETCH participants and staff could attest to. At a time when many people are feeling alone and uncertain about their place in the world, engaging in the arts builds community and meaning. As well, at a time when people are looking to find new ways of viewing themselves, their place in the world, and the meaning of their lives, the arts provide a creative space in which a person can explore and develop who she or he is in a positive space.
SKETCH: What do you think needs to be done to improve the outcome?
Sean: It is a matter of a modest investment in a few well-thought-out supports–developed in close consultation with the youth affected by these issues.
Excerpt taken from Raising the Roof”s Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Road to Solutions (2009)
SKETCH: What are the three things people need to know about this new research?
Sean: One, there is a huge missed opportunity here relative to the enormous costs of people cycling back onto the streets. A very modest bit of support and addressing unreasonable hurdles could make an enormous difference. Two, this work pointed to the solutions–people need help navigating systems, some support in addressing mental and physical health, and opportunities to grow through school, work, and other meaningful endeavors. Three, there is a great potential benefit in collaborating at a city level on solutions–there are many invested organizations working in the sector and collaborative efforts would be more efficient and effective than fragmented ones.
National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness infographic on homeless youth and mental health
SKETCH: Why is this research important for the community and for society in general? What are the actions you hope take place as a result of this research?
Sean: I hope that this work brings renewed attention to this pressing social concern–with over forty thousand Canadians homeless and the implications this has for us as a society, I hope that the voices of those who took part in this project will motivate the public and policy makers to take a closer look at what is happening here and how we might shift the focus to creating opportunities rather than resorting to criminalization and marginalization.
This research project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Long Way To Go is a free event open to the public. It takes place on Tuesday September 30th at 5:30PM in the SKETCH Lower Level Studios.
To RSVP, visit the Eventbrite page here.
-By Jonsaba Jabbi, Communications Assistant