Making Visible the Prevalence of Self-Identified Disability Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness

The study of youth homelessness has explored important intersections of homelessness with the child welfare, education, criminal justice, and mental health sectors. An invisible intersection in this research is the intersection of disability and homelessness, particularly intellectual, developmental, and learning disabilities for youth experiencing homelessness. The Partnering for Change research project has examined this intersection through an environmental scan of the multiple service sectors that interact with youth who have a disability and are homeless, through conversations with front-line workers and with youth and finally through the collection of quantitative data that confirms the over-representation of youth who identify as having a disability among homeless youth. This article reports on the prevalence of a range of disabilities among youth who are homeless in three sites in Southern Ontario. Not only is the prevalence of disabilities much higher than in the population at large, it is also the case that the average number of disabilities is much higher than in the youth population in Canada. Implications for needed changes in the service sector and for future research are outlined.

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Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness