Originally Broadcast March
NO WAY HOME
LIFE ON THE STREET
When youth become homeless, they don’t
all automatically end up sleeping on street grates or
in doorways. In fact, they end up staying in a variety
A 1999 survey found
60% of street youth are staying in one of Toronto’s
25% staying in an apartment (92% were staying with
friends and 'couch surfing')
15% staying on the street of which 4% were living
in squats, and 9% in parks, alleys, and doorways.
Most experts agree that homeless shelters are a band-aid
solution that offer little more than a bed and hot meal.
Yet some youth shelters are quite innovative. One that
the fifth estate found, under the umbrella of Eva’s
Initiatives, combines housing with training. They
place youth in jobs in the construction and movie industries.
Eva’s shelters have a high rate of success and
is a model that is soon to be transported to other communities.
Currently, the occupancy rate among youth shelters
is about 80%. While there has been a slight dip in the
number of youth using shelters, many youth would rather
live under bridges, in squats or on the streets than
HOW THEY EARN MONEY
In 1999, the most comprehensive study about how
street kids making their money was conducted by the Shout
Clinic which offers health care to homeless youth. Among
36% of street youth earn money
by panhandling or squeegeeing
19% do break and enters or sell drugs
18% receive social assistance
17% by have paid employment
10% do sex trade work
Some find legitimate work: Homeless
youth had worked at an average of 3.1 legitimate jobs
in the previous 12 months mainly in general labour,
painting, welding, as bike couriers, cooks, cashiers,
telemarketing, in baby sitting and retail sales.
Most have worked in the sex trade: 31%
- including men and women - reported engaging in either
street prostitution, phone or Internet sex, or massage/stripping
at least once in their lives. Agencies like Street
Outreach Services (SOS) focus on helping street
youth out of prostitution.
Background determines how youth earn money:
On average, sex workers left home at a younger age,
had been on the street the longest, were most likely
to have grown up in at least one foster homes, had the
lowest educational credentials and left home because
of problems pertaining to both physical and sexual assault.
In contrast, those who did property crimes or sold drugs
were predominately male, were likely to have grown up
in Toronto and were least likely to have experienced
physical or sexual assault at home.
Would they like to work? When asked
if they would like to find paid employment, 83.4% of
males and 87.8% of females said yes. This indicates
that street youth are unhappy about making money the
way they do and would like paid employment instead.
Asked more specifically about under what conditions
they would find accept a job:
53.7% said they would take any job if paid $20 an
35.5% would do just about any job
51.8% felt that any job was better than welfare
18.7% felt they would rather take welfare rather than a job they didn’t
18.% said they would not mind being unemployed for awhile
Again, these results suggest a majority of street youth
want a job, although they were not willing to accept
any job offered.
When asked what was preventing them from getting jobs,
reasons cited included:
no fixed address (45.2%), lack of work experience (43.3%),
no phone (44.5%), no money for transportation for job
search (40.2%), don’t have the right clothes
or appearance (34.7%)
legal problems, (21.3%),
lack of motivation (21.3%),
other problems which included waking up and keeping
a schedule, health, and literacy problems.
Most young homeless people were optimistic they would
find work, with 46.6% very hopeful, and 35.7% somewhat
NEXT PAGE: THE
HAZARDS OF HOMELESSNESS
MAIN - WHO ARE
HOMELESS YOUTH? - LIFE ON THE STREET
THE HAZARDS OF HOMELESSNESS - THE
CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS
THE COST OF HOMELESSNESS