THE PARADOX OF BEING YOUNG AND HOMELESS: RESILIENCY IN THE FACE OF CONSTRAINTS

Sue-Ann Belle MacDonald

Abstract


The major contribution of this article is to address the lack of knowledge regarding homeless youth’s experiences of risk, from their point of view. The youth at-risk field has become a burgeoning area of research that tends to magnify vulnerabilities, yet limits our understanding of complex youth experiences. It is important to highlight another dimension of the homeless youth experience that has rarely been promoted, and that is one of adaptability and creativity encompassed within a framework of survivability and resilience - notions that often necessitate taking risks. Drawing on a longitudinal ethnographic study with 18 homeless youth (aged 16 and 17 years old) in Ottawa (Canada), this article paints a more complex understanding of the struggles youth face, in terms of structural (social assistance, housing) and symbolic (stigma, social representations, and identity constructs) constraints. This analysis adds complexity to youth-at-risk discourses and displays the challenges they encounter and the resilient ways in which they seek to overcome obstacles. This paper supports a movement towards recognizing youth strengths and the heterogeneity of their experiences.


Keywords


homeless youth, risk, constraints, identity, adaptability

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International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies

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© University of Victoria
Victoria, BC Canada

 

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