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  • July 10, 2024

    Housing and Homelessness as a Barrier for Enjoyment of Child Rights in Canada

    Houses Near Concrete Road

    The approximate number of homeless people in Canada is 150,000 to 300,000 . 20% of youth between the ages of 13-25 are experiencing homelessness.

    Homelessness is when an individual, family or community lack stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. The approximate number of homeless people in Canada is 150,000 to 300,000 . 20% of youth between the ages of 13-25 are experiencing homelessness. 31% of these youth are from Indigenous communities, 28% from racialized communities and 29% identify as part of the LGBTQ community. According to the Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey 40.1% of the youth were younger than 16 years old when they experienced homelessness in Canada. The main causes that have contributed to homelessness of children and youth include poverty, domestic conflicts, lack of affordable housing, having been in the child welfare system, mental illness, and substance abuse.

    Children rights affected by homelessness

    1. Right to shelter (Art 27)

    Children who live in the streets do not get an opportunity to enjoy their right to shelter. Sufficient housing encompasses more than just a physical area; it also provides a healthy, safe, and secure atmosphere that promotes people’s physical and mental well-being, especially children.

    Homeless children are vulnerable to different kinds of abuse because no one is protecting them and they lack the skills necessary to live on their own. Abusers may sexually assault them, traffic them, and recruit them into criminal activities. For example, in America homeless children who have experienced violence by the age of 12 years old are 83% and 20% of them have three times the rate of emotional and behavioural problems.

    • Right to healthcare (Art 24)

    Physical and psychiatric health conditions

    Children who are homeless are faced with challenges such as hunger, poor nutrition, developmental delays, exposure to communicable diseases, anxiety and depression that directly affect their health. According to Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth many children and youths are suffering from mental health and addiction issues which has led to the suicide of many of them from age 10-17 in Manitoba. For example, the incident of the 22 girls in Manitoba who died by suicide due to mental health issues. In addition, homeless children and youth are at high risk of being affected by  infectious diseases that include tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis C, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B, Scabies, body louse and Bartonella Quintana.

    • Right to development and participation (Art 12)

    There is a poor developmental rate among children who are homeless. The reason behind this is that many of these kids are the offspring of homeless women who struggle with a variety of issues.

    There is a poor developmental rate among children who are homeless. The reason behind this is that many of these kids are the offspring of homeless women who struggle with a variety of issues, including substance misuse, acute and chronic medical conditions, and inadequate prenatal care to have healthy pregnancies. Consequently, low-weight and immunization-deficient children are born. Further, after the age of eighteen months, these children start to exhibit notable developmental delays, which are thought to have an impact on future emotional and behavioral issues.

    Homeless women often suffer from trauma, which prevents them from spending as much time with their children during critical developmental years as compared with mothers from less stressful situations. This makes their children to grow with impaired language, reduced vocabulary, slowed critical thinking and comprehension. Children who experience homelessness also have lower self-esteem and confidence, which restricts their ability to participate in society.

    • Right to education (Art 23/28)

    Children who are homeless might experience a range of academic difficulties, including low self-esteem, frequent school transfers, a lack of academic support, and trouble focusing and paying attention in class. Therefore, this makes them drop out of school without the skills that would help them secure a job to support themselves when they grow up.

    Solution to homelessness

    1. Affordable housing

    The most important structural solution of homelessness is the availability of low-cost housing which would enable women facing domestic violence and youth the ability to afford it.

    • Successful transition from the welfare system

    The government of Canada must adapt laws, initiatives, treatments, and financial support that can help young people transition out of foster care more successfully. These programs, policies, and investment changes at the provincial and local levels will allow child welfare systems to serve young people better involved in child welfare while also preventing youth homelessness.

    • Create an open and approachable culture in school

    Teachers should educate their students about the issues and attitudes that underlie homelessness, especially about equality. They can accomplish this through excellent instruction, foster opportunities and aspiration while keeping in mind the constraints and demands placed on families, kids, and teenagers. This knowledge would enable the homeless children to be accepted and not discriminated by their colleagues in the school environment.

    • Creation of job opportunities to homeless youth and women

    To end the cycle of poverty and give these marginalized groups agency, it is imperative to provide jobs for women and young people experiencing homelessness. To aid in achieving this objective, the following initiatives and tactics should be considered:

    1. Vocational Training and Education
    2. Skills Development Programs: Implement vocational training programs that teach marketable skills such as carpentry, plumbing, IT, healthcare, and hospitality.
    3. Partnerships with Educational Institutions: Collaborate with local schools, colleges, and universities to provide education and training opportunities.
    4. Certification Courses: Offer certification courses that can improve employability in various trades and professions.
    5. Apprenticeships and Internships
    • Apprenticeship Programs: Establish apprenticeship programs in collaboration with businesses to provide hands-on training and work experience.
    • Internship Opportunities: Create internship programs that offer real-world experience and can lead to permanent employment.

    In conclusion, solving homelessness would enable children and youth to enjoy their rights which are provided under the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which was opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly in November 20th 1989 and came into force on September 2nd 1990. The government of Canada is obligated to this treaty because it was signed on May 28, 1990, and ratified on December 13, 1991.

    Researched and written by Stella Louku, Practicum Student at MARL – Summer 2024

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