Street youth, homelessness, housing stability, emerging adulthood, youth identity


This paper explores the lives of formerly homeless young people as they transitioned towards housing stability. The study employed a longitudinal design involving 51 street youth in Halifax, N.S. (n = 21) and Toronto, ON (n = 30). This paper sheds light upon the pathways through which young people transitioned away from homelessness using the developmental lens of emerging adulthood: a stage involving numerous developmental struggles (identity, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between) but also an age filled with hope and possibilities. There are numerous interrelated factors at play that allow participants to regain a sense of citizenship with mainstream society. While housing in itself did not shape these young people's sense of stability, it influenced feelings of health, happiness and security. Yet, our participants, as a particular segment of the youth population who have transitioned out of basic homelessness, continue to describe their current lives in terms of fragility and instability. For most, opportunity for experimentation and identity exploration was often curtailed by processes outside of their control and struggles with the consequences of profound disempowerment —past trauma with family and/or current struggles with public sector structures and services. As a result, many felt abandoned and stigmatized by the very resources whose mission it is to assist.

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