I live in Canada and I am very interested in
how the issue of child and youth homelessness is being approached in
Your interest is quite essential for me as a youth
care giver, so I think it may be of help to let you know that groups of
students at Humber College are organising an event on this topic in
their community development project. This is solely based on their
findings, so they may have information relevant for your inquiries. I
wish you good luck and hope this helps.
In my country it’s the NGO'S which take a leading role in this aspect.
My name is Braden Freeman and I work at a homeless shelter in Calgary, Canada. It is very surprising to me how people view homelessness in the city. I think most people, including people in uniform, look down on this population and see them as a detriment to society. I think it is important to remember that society creates homelessness, giving society the responsibility to deal with this issue.
I deal with many different people who are homeless. I see young people, older people, war veterans and a variety of people from different cultural backgrounds. Looking at young people, I would say that from their birth they were destined to be homeless. For example, when an Aboriginal child comes into being, he is often brought into a family with trauma. The trauma of which I speak is related to residential schools and the unfortunate past relations between Europeans and the Native people. Thus, the child develops an association with suffering from an early age, and in some cases the parents financial issues force these children onto the streets before they are given a fair shot at life.
I think it is important for both social workers and child and youth care counsellors to recognize that people's past experiences shape who they are. People are therefore doomed to act out the past in a mechanical pattern. Until people become aware of their past and their negative patterns of behaviour, they will not be able to move beyond suffering. Counsellors should give people the space they need to deal with the hurt, avoiding any suggestions on fixing the problems. I think awareness is the key and the end goal. In awareness the behaviours will disappear of their own accord.
Thank you for your compassionate post. It is true that there are many factors that lead to homelessness and that trauma is often an underlying factor. I formerly taught counseling at risk youth at our local college and worked with a local shelter to raise funds. It always surprises me how much stigma that there was towards the homeless as well as how little compassion there was in comparison to other organizations I have done work with such as domestic violence shelters. I think people often misinterpret that these youth are bad kids / just misbehaving, that they're lazy, oppositional and choosing to be where they are, that it's undesirable or dangerous work because poor hygiene, blurred boundaries, or drugs and alcohol may be involved. I have worked with homelessness at both the youth level as well as an adult level and what I know is beneath this tough exterior that often develops over time is often an individual who is seeking someone to care for them, to look at them with compassion and kindness, to see that they are a human being who is suffering and scared.
In addition to factors such as intrauterine trauma and stress (alcohol use during pregnancy, birth / pregnancy complications, domestic violence etc.), traumas occurring in early life during crucial periods of brain development, and traumas occurring later in life we also need to keep in mind intergenerational trauma as such is what you are referring to with the residential schools. Not only do these experiences impact our perception of others and the world around us and the ability of our caregivers to provide love and care (who are typically doing the best that they can with what they know and have been given) but it also impacts at a genetic level altering our body and brain's chemistry setting it for fear and survival more so than safety and love. It's essential to know that even when looking at Brett studies with moms who come from trauma/stressful environments these wrapups have adaptive skills for survival – although the moms are less nurturing and loving towards them, they do prepare them for survival in the world as they know it. Rather than focusing on love and comfort they focus on awareness and heightened ability to navigate threats. Often this is something we see within human families as well where parents not provide as much love and nurture because they don't typically know how to do this themselves have not received it as a child.
At the core of homelessness in addition to the trauma is an attachment trauma. When someone is homeless it is because there has been a disruption to their relationships (for various reasons) regardless this is a form of attachment trauma. Also this does not tend to have its onset in teen years but rather often begins in infancy. This is where we learn to self regulate through the care of our caregivers, where we learn that the world is a safe place and that our needs are met, where we learn we can rely on others to meet our needs, or we learn a reality that is starkly different from this. Attachment is so crucial, 5/6th of our brain development within the first year of life is attachment driven.
Although there may be children and youth who have a higher predisposition to homelessness based on their environments there are things that we can do as preventative factors to promote resiliency. Most models focus on the same things as being crucial for resiliency – relationships, self-regulation skills, and skills building in these children are essential for future success. We need to find out what they're good at and help them build skills, we need to help some form relationships (attachment is a basic human need) this allows that they feel seen, heard, that they exist and that they matter. The ARC model is a fantastic resource for helping with this.
There's actually a new book out which focuses putting their framework into action with a wide variety of worksheets and resources that focus on building attachment, self-regulation, and competency. You can learn more about this book via this link: http://m.indigo.ca/product/books/treating-traumatic-stress-in-children/9781606236253?ikwid=attachment%20self%20regulation&ikwsec=Home or on the Trauma Centre at JRI's website. The book Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence is also an excellent resource http://m.indigo.ca/product/books/ghosts-from-the-nursery-tracing/9780871137340?ikwid=ghosts%20from%20the%20nursary&ikwsec=Home.
Thank you for the work you are doing to heal the hearts of those you work with.
Thank you for the replies. I always appreciate a good discussion because I believe we can all learn something from others. Your personal stories and insights are much appreciated.