Youth homelessness made worse by pandemic

Liz Braun 3 minute read May 13, 2022

The Home Depot Canada Foundation has just increased the money it will invest to help end youth homelessness to $125 million by 2030.

The funding from the charity is distributed through many community partners across Canada such as Youth Without Shelter here in Toronto, and initiatives like The Orange Door Project and TradeWorx — places that house young people, support them and teach them a trade so they can achieve independent living.

The funding is crucial because with regard to youth homelessness, the pandemic has created “a crisis within a crisis.”

The average age of kids who experience homelessness the first time is 16. About 40% stay with a friend at the beginning, but 12% stay in parks or other public places.

Among homeless kids, almost one third are LGBTQ+. Another third (28%) are members of a racialized community and 31% are Indigenous.

One in five experiencing homelessness are youth.

How does this happen?

Physical and sexual abuse can lead youth to run away. So can parental substance abuse.

Conflicts with families over LGBTQ identities are another reason youth are kicked-out or run away from home.

When the pandemic struck and the world went into lockdown, everything bad about a lousy home situation got worse.

You can escape an abusive parent for several hours if that parent is at work all day.

At school, there’s internet and a free lunch, things that are unavailable if your live in poverty.

When the pandemic hit and there was no work and no school, there was no escape.

And during COVID, whole families fell apart.

Many people lost their jobs and could no longer pay rent or buy food, putting their young adult kids at risk.

A handful of kids lost the grandparent raising them to COVID.

Older kids in the system aged out of foster care with nowhere to go during COVID.

Audrey Martin, Program Manager for Youth Housing and Outreach at Trellis in Calgary, said that during the pandemic, “Family situations have broken down to a point where youth are needing out of their family home because it’s no longer a safe place for them.

“That’s been a huge challenge and a different shift we’ve been seeing and working with.”

She described working with a young woman who has been on her own since she was 14, “Making her own decisions and getting employment where she could. She ended up getting COVID and had to take the mandatory 14 days off. That meant she couldn’t work.”

And that meant she didn’t earn enough to pay the rent that month, something Trellis could help with.

“We helped support her and paid that month’s rent. That meant she could stay in her home and did not have to access shelter.”

That’s the sort of success story the Home Depot Canada Foundation has been contributing to since 2013, supporting more than 850 community partners across the country and investing more than $50 million toward preventing and ending youth homelessness.


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