Social work covers a lot of basic services intended in the serving both each of its members
Social work covers a lot of basic services intended in the serving both each of its members, people in need as well as the community equally, without requiring access to any benefits. It aims at enhancing the social functioning of individuals, groups, activities which constitute the interaction between man and his environment i.e., therefore, the welfare of an economy as it said, “Economic health cannot be achieved without social health” (International Federation of Social Workers).
One of life’s basic needs like food, water, and clothing is shelter and when one seems to have no access to shelter or a home, they are regarded as “homeless”. Homelessness is a very huge problem that Canada has come to face. Firstly, homelessness is a condition of people who lack adequate housing. Based on research, mass homelessness in Canada emerged in the 1980s, following a tremendous deprivation in affordable housing, constructional shifts in the economy and reduced spending on social supports. The Charter claims in Section 7 declares that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and section 15, guarantees that all Canadians establish a positive obligation on behalf of the Canadian government to ensure access to all housing for all Canadians.
A national report shows that at least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year and at least 30,000 are homeless on a given night. Approximately 30,000 – 40,000 individuals in Canada sleep in shelters across Canada each night and the rest on the street. Also, as Canada’s new homeless population is diverse, the homeless range of several individuals from adults to children to even families, nearly one-in-seven users of emergency shelters across Canada are children and youths. Another four million Canadians are currently in need of affordable housing.
Homelessness in relation to youth, refers “to the situation and experience 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 Observatory on Homelessness, 2016). The youths or children under the age of the majority are considered “minors” and are subject to the care and responsibility of their parents or a legal guardian which in Canada is the Child welfare system. The Child Welfare system is responsible to provide social care outside the family, but many youths seem to be homeless either because there is no family home, or the child welfare system was unable to provide a safe and adequate environment. In Canada, Child protection services are provincially and territorially funded and regulated by the government with at times association with private organizations. Each province’s regulation describes precisely those circumstances in which state interference is required to protect a child i.e. those whose guardians cannot provide adequate care, abandoned, orphaned, physically, sexually or emotionally abused or also those whose behaviour is considered being a risk to themselves or others around them. Also, if a suspected neglect or abuse of a child is reported by anyone in the given community, under this regulation the responsibility for interference and investigation lies with a provincial child welfare officer or an organization mandated for issues like this, such as a children’s aid society. However, minors above the age of 15 who enter the child welfare system are not considered as vulnerable and as much in need of care and housing as the younger children. At this age, they are therefore discouraged to enter the child welfare system and therefore since the option of going back to their broken homes isn’t there, they end up in shelters or result in staying on the streets.
Based on the results of the 2016 pan- Canadian study on youth homelessness, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey” by Stephen Gaetz, it has been seen that about 57.8 per cent of homeless youths have had an involvement with child welfare. Also, 63.1% of youth who are homeless relate experiencing childhood misery, abuse, and/ or neglect, a key to involvement with child welfare. Approximately 73.3% of youth who become homeless before the age of 16 reported involvement with child protection services. Also, compared to Statistic Canada, youth experiencing homelessness are 193 times more likely to have been involved with child welfare than the general public as this suggests the policy was falling short of the obligation to protect and care for children and youth in Canada. Moreover, the survey also showed that the LGBTQ youths and racialized youth are unevenly represented among the youths experiencing homelessness across Canada due to regular forms of discrimination. The issue of Canada’s Aboriginal children may be the greatest problem faced by the child welfare system in Canada as it is reported that “indigenous youths make up 7 per cent of the total population of young Canadians yet make up half of the individuals involved in child protection services” (Statistics Canada,2011). Also, “Poverty creates conditions that lead to involvement in the child welfare system. Colonial policies have contributed directly to higher rates of poverty amongst Aboriginal people, and as a result, Aboriginal children are over-represented in the child welfare system” (The View From Here,2015). As the current social problems faced by Aboriginal communities such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, and substandard education, this, therefore, has a direct impact on the children. When Aboriginal children are removed from their homes, there are also difficulties finding native foster homes, partly because of the severe poverty many Aboriginal families face. Because it is also unclear which level of government is responsible for Aboriginal child welfare and as no federal legislation concerning Aboriginal child welfare exists, this results in less adequate services for the native children than for non-native children. Difficulty in the transition from the child welfare services is one area in which the system had some failures as leaving the care because of bad experiences, ageing out of care and others are linked to the later experiences of homelessness. “The need to provide young people with opportunities to succeed as emerging adults remains a challenge to the Child Welfare system. While society has embraced families to support their offspring well into the child’s twenties and beyond, youth dependent on the guardianship of the province have had to accept something far less” (The Children’s Advocate, 1999). As often kids find loving homes with foster parents, but many may move through a series of foster or group homes. They may continue to be afflicted by the distress of their experiences, leading them to have a difficulty in adjusting to a new family situation and feel unwanted.
Starting in 2005, there emerged a topic in Canada called ‘Housing first’ which means “going beyond emergency shelters and providing stable, long-term housing for homeless people at little or no cost, as well as additional support for mental health, addiction treatment and other need” (News National), as most stated that addressing the issue of getting people into a stable housing would be successful before addressing the issues that led to this state of homelessness. The Government of Canada also sees this approach as “an evidence-based approach capable of providing measurable results” and “an effective tool for solving chronic and episodic homelessness while reducing pressure on other emergency services”. Housing options in Canada available to children and youth look very different depending on the area of the province the person lives due to housing being the responsibility of government at the federal, provincial and urban levels. Moreover, as I think the Housing first approach could reduce the number of homeless people, I also believe that the child welfare programs can contribute to the prevention of youth homelessness earlier stages by working upward to deal with the constitutional and system factors that more generally have a part to unstable housing and risk homelessness. In the study “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness survey”, Professor Gaetz notes that other countries seem to be doing better in dealing with the child and youth homelessness and Canada can do better by not treating this issue in emergency or chronic response, but by trying to stop homelessness in the earlier stages. This could be through early intervention in family situations to settle conflicts. Another method is through bringing services and support directly to young people through, community centres, school, helplines where there could be a primordial identification and intervention of at-risk youths to help them stay in school, at home, anywhere where good security and care could be given also where possible, housing for youths and children should be developed.