Many different terms are used to describe young people experiencing homelessness, including street youth, street kids, runaways, homeless youth, etc. Youth homelessness refers to young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, and importantly, lack many of the social supports deemed necessary for the transition from childhood to adulthood. In such circumstances, they do not have a stable or consistent residence or source of income, nor do they necessarily have adequate access to the support networks necessary to foster a safe and nurturing transition into the responsibilities of adulthood.
According to Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey, 20% of the homeless population in Canada is comprised of youth between the ages of 13-24. In a given year, there are at least 35,000-40,000 youth experiencing homelessness. They may be temporarily living in hostels, staying with friends, living in ‘squats,’ renting cheap rooms in boarding houses or hotels, or actually living on the streets. They may also be living with parents or relatives, while at imminent risk of losing their shelter. The reality is that over the course of time many youth experiencing homelessness move between these various housing situations –the instability of housing is partially what characterizes their homelessness.