1.6 Crisis Response with Street-Involved Youth

Youth who are under-housed or street involved can experience crises that include injury by violence, aggressive behaviours, and thoughts of suicide. These crises can be challenging and frightening not only for the youth experiencing them, but also for service providers who work with these young people. Using a strength-based approach during a crisis helps youth develop personal agency. Personal agency refers to the sense of having control over one’s own outcomes (Jeannerod, 2003). Even in the face of shaming messages telling them they cannot change, most street-involved youth are extremely resilient and resourceful. We support them in developing personal agency when we help them make their own changes rather than make changes for them. For example, guiding youth along the decision path toward finding safe shelter, supporting them in taking the key steps themselves, accompanying them as they make the arrangements, and celebrating their success go a long way in helping youth build the skills and confidence necessary to address future risks and crises. Furthermore, promoting personal agency strengthens selfesteem, which is a buffer against a range of negative outcomes in youth who are homeless (Kidd & Shahar, 2008).

This chapter describes basic strategies service providers can use to keep themselves, their clients, and other clients as safe as possible during a crisis. It also discusses how at the same time service providers can affirm clients in their strength and resilience in surviving, and assure them that they will be supported, not abandoned.

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