INITIAL INFO

The purpose of this study is to examine and compare how the target population perceives youth homelessness, and the realities of youth homelessness in Toronto; additionally, to explore if youth homelessness has increased or decreased since COVID-19. The results of this work will enlighten my audience and instil self-reflection. My target audience are youth / young adults aged 16 - 24, hence why this topic will hopefully instil self-reflection. 53 participants in the GTA (greater Toronto area) answered 7 questions regarding their perceptions of youth homelessness in Toronto in order to procure the following results. The following results are supported through an interview conducted with Bradley Harris, the Assistant Divisional Social Services Secretary at the Salvation Army with well over twenty-five years of experience with homeless youth. 

SURVEY RESULTS

SURVEY-gender-identity.png

Data points from this line graph were retrieved from the "Shelter System Flow" open data sources provided by the City of Toronto and a quantitative survey. 

Evidently, many participants assumed that transgender, non-binary, and two-spirit peoples would be the highest population size. Interestingly, this demographic in Canada consists of approximately 5% of our current population. Therefore, the actual 5% gathered from the data, proves to be an adequate number in relation to the overall population size.

Personal Stories 

SURVEY -population size.png

Data points from this line graph were retrieved from the "Shelter System Flow" open data sources provided by the City of Toronto and a quantitative survey. 

Interestingly, at the beginning of COVID-19 in Toronto, the amount of youth homeless individuals was 987 individuals,  which is very close to the average answer from the survey. However, as of March 2021, this amount has decreased to 735 youth. 
Harris believes this number will increase and eventually level off to approximately 1000 individuals per month. He comments how "accessibilities will begin to increase as services will evolve​" after the COVID-19 pandemic.
POPULATION-1.png
This line graph shows the youth homeless population steadily decreasing since the beginning of last year (January, 2020). According to the Canadian Health Care Network, COVID-19 entered Canada on January 25, 2020. Therefore, this data shows the impacts that COVID had on this population as being beneficial to moving the youth off the streets.
According to Harris, there are many reasons to the decrease of youth homeless in shelters at the start of COVID-19. Factors include lower eviction rates in Toronto, capacity in shelters decreasing to accommodate social distancing, and finding other refuges for shelter such as isolation sites if they caught the COVID-19 virus. 

Data points from this line graph were retrieved from the "Shelter System Flow" open data sources provided by the City of Toronto. 

SURVEY - age.png

Data points from this line graph were retrieved from the "Shelter System Flow" open data sources provided by the City of Toronto and a quantitative survey. 

The quantitative study reveals that most people (90%) believe that the predominant age bracket for youth homelessness is between the ages of 16-24. This presumption is correct with the current statistics offered by the Shelter System Flow data as of May, 2021, which offers that 60% of homeless youth are in the 16 to 24 bracket. 

Harris comments how the biggest challenge for shelter systems now, is funding youth specific services and support. He comments how the goal is to"get kids off the street, give them the income that they need, provide housing and the success they deserve." 

PERSONAL STORIES

Samantha

Samantha, a youth from Eva’s homeless shelter, comments how her mental health diagnosis prevented her from being able to participate in certain shelter programs. She resorted to attending Eva’s in order to attempt educational studies. However, the overarching problem for homeless youth pursuing school, is if their studies are interrupted, they need to repeat certain courses. Evidently this is a barrier many homeless youth face.  In the wake of approximately 1 in 5 youth in Canada having a mental illness, more support will need to be allocated after the COVID-19 pandemic. Bradley Harris comments how the mental health landscape has “changed drastically…[calling for] a need for this service in outreach programs.” Youth homeless shelters can only offer a general level of mental health support, however, Harris believes this “may not be at the same level as they might need.”

Stephen

Since youth shelters are especially designed to promote growth in the individual and offer them opportunities to better themselves, most youth are not brought to these locations unless unexpected circumstances arise. In Stephen’s case, he found himself at an adult shelter which he comments was a more “aggressive environment [than] in the youth shelter.” Harris comments how youth enter adult shelters only when spaces are full. The adult shelters consist of “adults averaging around 45 to 46 years old who have been chronically homeless for more than two years.” Because of this drastic age difference and circumstances, youth are given more support at targeted shelters such as more access to education, work background, and programming to help them in the future. Additionally, in more recent years, there has been a push towards how shelters are responding to the LGBTQ2S demographic.