Recent portrayals of the plight of runaway and homeless youth graphically outline the bleak and painful lives experienced by these individuals on the street and in the company of predatory others who exploit them (Lau, 1989; Webber, 1991). Not only are these youth confronted with meeting their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing), but with functioning in everyday life having limited self-confidence and knowledge with which to make self-improving decisions. Many runaway and homeless youth tend towards risk-taking and self-destructive behaviours (e.g., petty crime, prostitution, alcohol and substance abuse) in order to dull their painful experiences and survive their adopted environments (Palenski & Launer, 1987).

Providing care and support for this most in-need population is an ongoing challenge for health and social service workers. Efforts to stabilize the lives of these youth, to offer safety, basic necessities, and counselling, and to provide treatment for accumulated and present concerns (e.g., emotional effects of abuse, addictions) are taxing and formidable for even the most committed individuals (Charles & McIntyre, 1990; Colyar, 1991). The skill and energy necessary to invest these youth with a sense of belonging and self-worth, while assisting with social skills, life skills, educational and employment goals, and general resourcefulness to assume independence, at times discourages helping agents and leaves them in need of their own support (Nestman, 1990).

Furthermore, the services and programs designed to address the needs of these youth often suffer from inconsistency in public or government support and the internal strains of effectively coordinating overall programming, meeting daily service demands, and supporting staff, volunteers, administration and residents alike in their roles, interactions, personal development, and goals.


Fitzgerald, M. (1993) Residential care for homeless youth: Hopeful signs for an extensive service. Journal of Child and Youth Care, Vol 8 (4) pp. 61–62













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Colyar, D.E. (1991). Residential care and treatment of youths with conduct disorders: Conclusions of a conference of child care workers. Child & Youth Care Forum, 20(3), 195—204.
Lau, E. (1989). Runazvay: Diary of a street kid. Toronto: HarperCollins.
Nestman, L.J. (1990, March). Who’s caring for professional caregivers? Transition, 14—15.
Palenski, J.E., & Launer, H.M. (1987). The "process" of running away: A redefinition. Adolescence, 22, 347—362.
Webber, M. (1991). Street kids: The tragedy of Canada’s runaways. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.