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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housing street youth: a Vancouver case study Stefanoff, Genya Jennifer Anne


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the housing environment faced by street youth in the City of Vancouver. It seeks to understand the housing needs of street youth, to identify the barriers encountered in accessing housing, to identify and evaluate their housing options, and to examine the provincial and municipal government roles in providing housing for street youth. This thesis defines a street youth as an individual between the ages of 12 and 18 who has either chosen to leave or been thrown out of their family home for a minimum of two days, is involved in street related activities, and sleeps in inappropriate accommodations or has no shelter at all. The terms street youth and homeless youth are used interchangeably because the qualities which are absent from an individual’s living environment - privacy, security, stability and access to support services - are also absent from the various living situations in which street youth find themselves. The methodology undertaken to complete this thesis is a literature review and a case study of Vancouver’s street youth. The literature review provides background information on the general subject of homelessness, and specifically, the reasons why youth choose to live a life on the street and the lifestyle they lead once on the street. The empirical component of the research consists of interviews with service providers and street youth. The interview results clearly reveal that two interrelated problem areas exist in the broad issue of street youth and housing. These areas are first, the state care system, both its form and manner of service provision, and second, accessibility to market housing - social, economic and political factors which affect a youth’s ability to secure housing. An issue common to both problem areas, and perpetuating the problems in each, is the lack of value and respect society gives to youth. A ‘continuum of housing’ model is proposed which takes into account the family backgrounds conmion to many street youth, the types of lifestyle they lead while on the street, and the problems associated with state-provided and market housing. In addition, recommendations are provided which centre on advocacy and service-coordinating bodies, attitude changes, additional housing facilities, landlord-tenant relationships, government assistance eligibility criteria, and funding.

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