Changing Faces: the Story of Two Canadian Street Youth Shelters

This study addresses the relationship between street youth shelters and formal child welfare systems in Toronto, Canada. Two case examples, Covenant House (CH) and Youth Without Shelter (YWS), are examined through archival material, participant observations and structured interviews with 21 front-line and managerial shelter workers. The findings suggest that both shelters have formed reciprocal and unequal partnerships with formal child-welfare organisations. The consequences of such an arrangement are threefold: (1) CH and YWS no longer possess an internal environment to support traditional street youths; (2) both shelters have strayed from their original intentions; and (3) many shelter workers express frustration within this dynamic. Several recommendations are put forward to support the survival of youth shelters: advocating increased government daily rates; seeking a balance between building a legitimate public image and an alternative street youth reputation; making every effort to house hard-core street youths; and building innovative internal programmes to act as referral points

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International Journal of Social Welfare