Homelessness is a complex problem. Each homeless individual or family has a unique set of circumstances that may have resulted in their situation. Some homeless individuals are confronting multiple challenges. This may include catastrophic events; loss of employment; family break-up; family violence; onset of mental and/or other debilitating illnesses; substance use by oneself or family members; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; and/or involvement in the child welfare system.
Some groups may be more vulnerable to homelessness than others, including youth, the elderly, women, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and Indigenous Peoples.
Youth homelessness refers to the situation and experiences of young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, but do not have the means or ability to acquire a stable, safe or consistent residence (Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness). For example, they may be:
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 (Homelesshub, 2017).
It is important to note that some students might not categorize themselves as homeless despite living in non-traditional housing arrangements, oftentimes putting them in the “hidden” population of homelessness.
There may be a variety of potential warning signs of homelessness. Signs of homelessness are not always obvious, and some of these signs could be symptoms of another problem or issue. It is always best to learn more about each student’s individual situation to provide assistance with the individual’s particular needs.
It is important that students experiencing homelessness have a safe and stable environment at school. School staff have a role in connecting students and their families with necessary programs, services and supports.
The following are some of the ways schools can support students experiencing homelessness or unstable housing that impedes their education:
Deliver practical support:
If you require more information, assistance or support, contact Alberta Supports. They can help provide you with information and access to relevant programs and community.