"The One Thing That Actually Helps". Art Creation as a Self-Care and Health Promoting Practice Amongst Youth Experiencing Homelessness. 

Arts-based programming has increasingly been offered to youth experiencing homelessness in various service settings, often grounded in the belief that this type of programming can promote mental wellness and recovery, social inclusion, and life skills. Despite the ubiquity of such programs, there is limited research on the impacts and value of arts creation for youth who are homeless. Drawing on 23 in-depth interviews with youth experiencing homelessness and staff at a large youth homeless shelter, this study explores the importance, meanings, roles, and effects of art creation and art-based programming in the lives of youth who are homeless. Analysis identified five key ways that youth experiencing homelessness use the arts to cope with adversity and create meaning, including to: manage mental health challenges; cope with stress and homelessness; recover from trauma and create ‘safe spaces’; explore, express, and discover themselves; and develop positive self-esteem and hopefulness for the future. Findings revealed the complex and highly personal ways through which youth strategically use art creation as a self-care and health-promoting practice. These findings demonstrate the importance of developing arts-based interventions that employ a positive youth development approach and support youth's own self-care and meaning-making practices. Implications for practice and policy are discussed, including the need for art programs to build upon the positive arts-based practices youth are already employing in their efforts to improve their health, pursue their goals, and empower themselves.

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Children and Youth Services Review