The Sunday Magazine

Why are so many young Canadians homeless, and what should be done about it?

On any given night in this country, more than 6,000 young people are couchsurfing, bouncing in and out of shelters, or sleeping rough on the street. Some are as young as 13.
During the week of Oct 13 and 21, 2016, a youth homeless count was underway in Kamloops (

On any given night in Canada, more than six thousand young people are homeless. Some are no older than thirteen. They're couch surfing, or bouncing in and out of shelters. Young women are swept up by pimps who prowl the streets looking for the vulnerable. Teenagers sleep rough on the street, hungry and at risk. Young adults struggle to find a job and an affordable place to live.

In the course of a year, as many as 40 thousand of Canada's children are without a home.

About 6,000 Canadian youth are homeless, according the Push For Change, a national organization behind the "SleepOut Challenge," aimed at raising funds to tackle youth homelessness. (The Gathering Place / Facebook)

Homeless youth often deal with a constellation of problems: family dysfunction, mental health issues, conflict at school, drug and alcohol issues, and sexual exploitation.

Michael Enright convened a panel of four people, to talk about why so many young Canadians are homeless, and about some innovative solutions to this unacknowledged national crisis.

Our panelists from left to right: Jayne Malenfant, Mike Gawliuk, Bruce Rivers, Melanie Redman.

One of Michael's guests is Jayne Malenfant, whose experience with family disruption and precarious housing began when she was a teenager. Jayne is twenty-eight now; she is a doctoral student at McGill University, where she studies how homeless youth experience barriers to education.

Melanie Redman is the co-founder, President & CEO of A Way Home Canada, a national coalition re-imagining solutions to youth homelessness through transformations in policy, planning and practice. Melanie also leads the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, which is a pan-Canadian network of organizations providing services to youth experiencing homelessnes. Melanie chairs the Youth Homelessness Research Priority Area at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University.

Bruce Rivers is the Executive Director of Covenant House Toronto. His organization serves at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth. He has been a child welfare expert and advocate for three decades, including 16 years as Executive Director of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto.

Mike Gawliuk is the Director of Service Delivery and Program Innovation with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Kelowna, BC. He has been working on the front-lines with at-risk youth, for 25 years.

Matthew Gricken at age 22. He ran away from home at age sixteen and was homeless for almost fifteen years.

Click 'listen' at the top of the page to hear Michael's discussion with his guests.