2.6 Developing a Trauma-Informed Mental Health Group Intervention for Youth Transitioning out of Homelessness

Young people who are homeless experience converging and amplified risk due to their developmental stage, as well as the stress, risk behaviours, and associated trauma that often accompany becoming or being homeless. They tend to be immersed in environments characterized by multiple adversities over their lifetime and it is generally agreed that the mental health of these youth is poorer than that of youth who are housed. Most youth report that their mental health problems began before they left home (Craig & Hodson, 1998; Karabanow et al., 2007). Life on the street and the adversity that accompanies homelessness exacerbate these pre-existing mental health issues. Youth not only lack the basic necessities of shelter and food (Tarasuk & Dachner, 2005), but they also face constant and pervasive threats to their safety and
well-being in the form of physical and sexual assault and other types of victimization (Karabanow et al., 2007; Whitbeck et al., 2000). Research has found almost universally high levels of mental health issues among youth who are homeless, with rates ranging from 48% (Kamieniecki, 2001) to as high as 98% (Hodgson et al., 2015; Merscham, Van Leeuwen, & McGuire, 2009). The impact of trauma is particularly salient. Coates and McKenzie-Mohr (2010) found that over 50% of youth who are homeless experience severe effects of traumatic stress.

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