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Work on the streets?

2011
 
Hello, my name is April Edgerton and I am currently going to Fleming College and we are doing a group project and we have a couple questions:
 
Is it actually as hard as people say it is to be a Child and Youth Worker who works out on the streets?
 
Thank you all!
 
April Edgerton
...

I worked with street kids in Edmonton for a few years in the 80's. I think it may be tougher now than it was then but a lot of the same challenges will still apply. It takes a long time to build relationships with homeless youth due to their transient nature, often traumatic backgrounds, and the difficulty they have trusting anyone. If you're in for the haul though, it will provide you with learning opportunities you will never encounter in any other setting. It can be really hard but even at the toughest moments just try to remember that no time spent caring about any kid is ever wasted. Some of the street kids I worked with are now in their 40's and still keep in touch with me. 
 
Best wishes on your project. 
 
Sincerely,
Penny Frazier
...
 
April
 
It will depend on what type of person you are.  Kids on the streets aren't there because they came from loving caring situations, nor are they there because they feel they can trust adults to look out for their well being.

If your self-worth isn't dependant on the clients success then you should be fine.  "Kids on the streets" need to learn to trust (some never do)... That inherently is your job (regardless of the actual job description you
receive) after that they make their choice to either buy into your program services you're offering or they will go off elsewhere (which can be difficult to now know what became to that child).  It's a long road to get the kids to buy in, with upsets almost everywhere and anywhere, so be prepared.
 
Lisa
...
 
April,
 
Yes, If you don't like working with Youth in the streets!
 
Clayton Ellis
...

To work with street kids in Edmonton I suggest you contact iHuman. Hands down - they the most passionate people working with youth at risk in Edmonton. If you really want to walk the talk - see if you can walk with them.
 
Sincerely,
Penny Frazier
...
 
Hi April,

 I am a 2nd year CYCC student and I am currently undertaking a practicum at a homeless youth shelter. At this shelter I work closely with street entrenched youth with varying backgrounds, disorders, needs and addictions.

 I expected that frontline work with homeless youth would be challenging but I never expected it to be as rewarding as it has proven to be. As I am only a student with minimal experience working with youth, I was extremely nervous and concerned about my ability to form relationships with youth; especially those who are street entrenched. A couple of months into my practicum, I can now say that I have successfully formed effective and trusting relationships with many of the youth I work with. Though I believe that much of relationship building comes from being yourself, being present, being open and being honest; there are a couple things that I consciously kept in mind working alongside homeless youth.
 
I entered my practicum knowing that it would be a challenge and that relationship building takes time. I needed to earn the trust of youth and remember that they would respect me if I respected them. Much of this stems from the “Ten Techniques of the Revival of Relationship Technology”. Included in these techniques is the importance of the conflict cycle and life span interview. Learning (through trial and error) to look beyond a youth’s behaviour to their feelings in hopes of ending a conflict has been very useful. In crisis there is a large opportunity to learn more about the youth you are working with and to build upon your relationship.
 
Also, reminding myself that many of these street entrenched youth come from traumatic, abusive and hazardous environments allows me to understand their behaviour better. If looking at the “40 Developmental Assets” developed by the USA-based Search Institute, many street entrenched youth are lacking in many if not all of these assets. The external assets include support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations and constructive use of time. The internal assets include commitment to learning, positive values, social competence and positive identity. Street youth have not had the proper opportunities to expand on their external environment and internal self. It is sad, but here is where you are needed. By teaching these youth to respect themselves and others and pushing them to realize their full potential, you will be showing them that someone cares about them and ultimately believes in them.
 
Though you may be weary of working so closely with at-risk, vulnerable and street entrenched youth, I urge you to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. It is a very rewarding experience to know that you are a positive support for a youth who has little or no positive adult relationships in their life. To hear a youth say thank you or to describe how happy they feel for the first time in their life is a priceless feeling. I hope that you will take the chance, do the hard work and reap the beautiful rewards!
 
Carolyn Butler
...
 
I am a second year student at Mount Royal University and have 3 years in the field working with at risk youth. The dedication and commitment that it takes to work with street youth, comes with many rewards.
 
Working with youth on the streets can be a challenging process simply because stability is something that many of these youth are not used to.

In my experience many of them have had some experiences with Child and Family Services and have a view of the system that is negative and therefore those who work as Child and Youth Care Counsellors have the challenge of changing that view from negative to positive in the short time that we are working with them. Erik Erikson's Ecological Systems Model is a great example of how and why these children or youth struggle while on the streets and why in turn it is such a struggle for some Child and Youth Care Counsellors to work with them.
 
The youth's Microsystem and Mesosystem can consist of unreliable people or an unpredictable and negative lifestyle; which can be why when we reach out to them as counsellors, it takes a commitment on our part to try and work through the walls they have built to protect themselves from this inconsistency they are familiar with.  In my experience the loyalty these youth have to the street and the family that they have created with other street youth is very powerful. Their Ecological Model consists of other youth searching for love and acceptance on the street.
 
It is very important to actively listen and empathize with the youth in order to build trust and show the youth they can have a healthy relationship with an adult who cares and wishes to listen. From my personal experiences, when a youth seems to be in the beginning stages of building this relationship, they become vulnerable and their first instinct is to leave and push this relationship away. It is this commitment from the counsellor that shows the youth unconditional positive regard; letting the youth know that no matter their behaviour, care and empathy are always present in the relationship.
 
I have only begun my journey and although it has been a challenge, the rewards are great and the learning experiences are even greater. I look forward to many more years learning and challenging myself in this field, including working with many street youth. I hope this helps answer your question and gives you some insight into working with youth who live on the street.
 
Brittney Elliott
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