1.3 Mindfulness Approaches for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Mindfulness involves bringing attention to what is happening within us and around us in moment-to-moment experiences, without labelling experiences as good versus bad, and refraining from reviewing the past or planning for the future (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Mindfulness practice is found to be an effective approach for improving well-being among adults, with increasing support for its use in enhancing regulatory capacities among vulnerable youth populations. The approach originated from Eastern culture and Buddhist traditions. More recently, practitioners and researchers have integrated Buddhist meditative practices into Western society to foster mindfulness and address individuals’ physical and mental health needs (Kabat-Zinn, 1982; Linehan, 1993). Common mindfulness practices include meditation, yoga, and relaxation and visualization exercises. Although less studied, these practices have proven beneficial in reducing stress and improving self-awareness, anxiety, and emotional and behavioural reactivity among youth experiencing homelessness.

Pilot studies that examine whether mindfulness intervention is possible in shelter settings and is acceptable to young people experiencing homelessness generally find that youth will attend mindfulness training and that those who do may experience important benefits (Bender et al., 2015; Grabbe, Nguy, & Higgins, 2012). This chapter begins by describing the general objectives and components of mindfulness-based practice. It then discusses how mindfulness-based programs have been implemented with youth experiencing homelessness and what the outcomes have been. The chapter concludes with key strategies for practitioners to consider in their work with youth accessing homeless services.

Sean Kidd, Natasha Slesnick, Tyler Frederick, Jeff Karabanow, Stephen Gaetz
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press