The goal of this workshop is to:

  1. Ensure that the topic of youth homelessness is being discussed in classrooms in Ontario;
  2. Dispel harmful myths and stereotypes about homelessness and homeless youth;
  3. Provide teachers-in-training with resources and insights about how to best support their students if they are at risk of or experiencing homelessness;
  4. Educate young people how to identify if themselves or their friends are at-risk of homelessness, and to what know their options are;
  5. Motivate young people to think about and take action on the issue of homelessness or other social justice issues in their communities.

Facts:

  • We know that around 300,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year, but we also know the number is way higher than that and we just have a hard time counting.
  • Roughly, 35,000 people are homeless each night.
  • Out of that 35,000, we know at least 6,000 are young people aged 14-24.
  • A mid-sized public school in Ottawa has around 950 students, so we can imagine at least 6 full public schools filled with homeless young people every night in Canada.
  • In Ottawa, we know that 850 youth slept in emergency shelters in 2016.
  • We know that some types of young people are more likely to become homeless than others. For example, LGBTQ2S+ youth, Indigenous youth, and young people who are new to Canada. And this isn’t because of any fault of their own, it’s because they already face so much discrimination and inequality.
  • We know that homelessness has lasting impacts that aren’t great. Life-long poverty & unemployment, poor health and mental health, homeless youth are way more likely to die than housed youth, and not just from conditions on the street but also suicide.
  • The average life expectancy of a homeless person in Canada is 39, compared to 82 for everyone else.

This is why we care about youth homelessness. It’s not just a horrible thing to have happen but sometimes a deadly thing. We went around asking young homeless people about their experiences in schools to see how schools might be able to help in this issue, and one of the common things that we found was that sometimes a school staff member, like a teacher or guidance counsellor, or principal, would help them out. But more often, the ways that school staff responded when young people were homeless or at risk made things worse for the youth.  This was because often students were being punished for the symptoms of their homelessness, like missing classes, sleeping in school, or getting into fights.