4. Childhood Stress and Mobility Among Rural Homeless Youth

In this chapter I will report on a longitudinal study of homeless youth in Niagara, a region in Ontario with a unique mix of rural, small town and urban settings. Forty homeless youth participated in the study and 30 youth were followed for an average of 7 months.The findings from this study help examine the causes of youth homelessness, while the characteristics of homeless youth in Canada are reviewed in order to evaluate how well we are capturing the complexity of the lives of youth who become homeless.

In this chapter, I will explore in some detail the multiple childhood stresses and ongoing mobility of this population. The considerable mobility among this population of youth before, during and after the study suggests complex patterns of dislocation and ongoing instability. Homelessness is not necessarily the most important dislocation in the lives of youth who were followed in this study.

In looking more closely at mobility and childhood stress, I want to raise questions about whether the current focus on causation of youth homelessness and the response of emergency shelter allow us to take our eyes off the impact of serious childhood trauma on young lives and the inadequate resources and support to help youth put their lives back together again.

Since youth homelessness is a consequence of other trauma in the lives of youth, I conclude by examining how we can respond to youth homelessness in ways that also address the circumstances that led to homelessness.

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Gaetz, Stephen
O’Grady, Bill
Buccieri, Kristy
Karabanow, Jeff
Marsolais, Allyson
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory On Homelessness