Sofas, Shelters and Strangers: A Report on Youth Homelessness in Niagara

The growing number of homeless youth in Canada—some estimates suggest that youth represent one third of all shelters users (Laird, 2007)—makes youth homelessness a concern for every municipality. The following report outlines the design, methodology, findings and recommendations of a study of the causes and impacts of youth homelessness in the Regional Municipality of Niagara conducted between February 2009 and February 2010. The report outlines the findings from a study of 40 homeless youth and 20 chronically homeless adults who became homeless when youth. The goals of the study were:

• To find out more about the nature of youth homelessness in Niagara, particularly its causes and impacts.

• To explore the connection between becoming homeless at a young age and later adult chronic homelessness. The possibility that homeless youth may become chronically homeless adults makes youth homelessness a special concern.

• To examine youth homelessness across Niagara’s diverse geographic mix of small urban, small town and rural areas and determine whether and how youth homelessness looks different depending on geographic location.

• To use the increased knowledge of the causes and impacts of youth homelessness to develop responses that better meet the needs of homeless youth.

This project was not intended to enumerate the homeless youth in Niagara, but to explore the causes and impacts of youth homelessness among youth, including the impacts that may still be there for homeless adults. Interviews were conducted with 40 homeless youth across the Region, 10 each in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls/Welland, Port Colborne/Fort Erie and West Niagara. There were two follow up interviews conducted with 30 youth located a second time and 15 youth located a third time. In addition, 20 adults were interviewed who are chronically homeless and who became homeless as youth.

Publication Date: 
Niagara Region, ON, Canada