A recent study of global youth homelessness points to poverty, not delinquency, as the major factor leading to “street involvement.” The study, published online by JAMA Pediatrics, concludes that homeless children “require support and protection” and calls on governments worldwide to address social and economic inequities as a way to combat homelessness.
The study’s lead researcher, Paula Braitstein, of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said in a Toronto Star article, “If we want to help these kids, policy-makers need to understand why they take to the streets. Given our study’s findings, criminalizing youth or instituting policies that assume they are thieves, delinquents or drug addicts, won’t help.”
Researchers found that poverty accounted for 39 percent of youth homelessness, followed by family conflict at 32 percent and abuse at 25 percent. The team gathered data from 49 studies conducted between 1990 and 2013 to examine reasons children and youth under 24 gave for their situation.
Braitstein, in a University of Toronto website post, estimates that there are tens to hundreds of millions of children homeless or connected to the streets worldwide.
“Street youth have rights … and they often find themselves in situations that violate their basic human rights,” she said.