British Columbia needs to develop a formal plan to end youth homelessness in the province with the help of young people themselves, according to a new report.
The report, prepared by Kamloops youth advocate Katherine McParland and supported by the province’s representative for children and youth, was developed by consulting with more than 230 young people who had experienced homelessness.
“B.C. now has an unprecedented opportunity and policy window to develop a plan to eradicate youth homelessness so that no youth is left behind,” said McParland in a media release. “There is an urgency to this issue.
“The longer a young person is homeless, the more trauma and victimization they experience. There is no time to wait.”
The report highlights a variety of pathways that lead youth to homelessness, including unsafe family homes, unsafe or non-responsive foster care experiences, addictions and mental health issues and the affordability crisis.
A 2018 report found nearly 700 homeless young people living in Metro Vancouver alone, most of them either living on the streets or couch surfing.
That report found most of the young people had fled family conflicts or were struggling with drug addiction or mental illness.
Through 13 forums with homeless youth around B.C., researchers in the 2020 report identified the “devastating” impacts on young people.
Those range from physical violence and health risks, mental health problems, loss of education and employment opportunities up to exploitation and death.
“Many studies have shown that the longer youth are homeless, the more trauma and victimization they experience,” states the report.
“Research has also shown that youth experience trauma both before and after experiencing homelessness, which can lead to their marginalization and exclusion from society.”
The report concludes with a single recommendation: that the provincial government develop a plan to end youth homelessness, built on the input from young people who had actually been homeless.