“Youth homelessness” refers to the situation and experience of young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, but do not have the means or ability to acquire a stable, safe or consistent residence.
Youth homelessness is a complex social issue because as a society we have failed to provide young people and their families with the necessary and adequate supports that will enable them to move forward with their lives in a safe and planned way. In addition to experiencing economic deprivation and a lack of secure housing, many young people who are homelessness lack the personal experience of living independently and at the same time may be in the throes of significant developmental (social, physical, emotional and cognitive) changes. As a result, they may not have the resources, resilience, education, social supports or life skills necessary to foster a safe and nurturing transition to adulthood and independence. Few young people choose to be homeless, nor wish to be defined by their homelessness, and the experience is generally negative and stressful. For more information on this definition, see the Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness.
Since 2007, and the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, the number of either homeless youth or youth at risk of becoming homeless in Greater Victoria has numbered in the hundreds. The old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been more true than for those youth who are either homeless or on the verge of homelessness. Today, youth between the ages of 16 and 24 years are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Canada. The human cost and financial cost of homelessness burdens any community where it arises. A critical step in preventing adult homelessness is to prevent vulnerable youth from fall into chronic poverty and homelessness. It remains crucial, therefore, that the regional municipalities of Greater Victoria work together toward ending youth homelessness today as a determinate of healthier communities tomorrow.