Pubdate: Wed, 10 May 2006
Source: Saanich News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Saanich News
Author: Rudy Haugeneder
Bookmark: (Youth)


Study Dispels Myths About Street Youth

Street kids don't become criminals or die young, a UVic study has found.

They "are very hopeful and positive about the future," said social 
scientists Dr. Cecilia Benoit and Mikael Jansson, who authored an 
ongoing study called Risky business? Experiences of Street Youth.

Street kids make the same choices as the rest of the population by 
the time they hit their mid-20s, they found after interviewing 
slightly more than 200 Victoria street-involved youth between the 
ages of 14 and 18.

"Up to 80 per cent have jobs, are married and have children by age 
25," the scientists said.

And that's not bad for street kids who live on less than $115 per 
week obtained from family, friends, welfare as well as from 
panhandling, theft, and selling sex or drugs.

Those who don't make it back into ordinary society either become 
permanent street people or are institutionalized, the researchers 
said. Only a fraction have died.

A whopping 42 per cent of street kids -- male and female - said they 
had used the deadly drug crystal meth in the past six months, 
compared to less than three per cent of kids living at home.

However, returning to what looks like mainstream society doesn't mean 
former street kids adopt the same behaviour of ordinary families 
without street backgrounds, they said.

But it doesn't mean they don't, because there's been no research to find out.

Benoit and Jansson plan to explore that in followup research.

The results won't be known for a few years -- until after the street 
kids, between the ages of 14 and 18 and first interviewed in 2002, hit age 25.

Although the street hippies of the 1970s made successful transitions 
into normal adulthood, the scientists noted the same might not apply 
to today's street-involved kids.

"Family structure has changed dramatically since then, said Jansson.

Hippies generally came from middle-class family homes with a 
stay-at-home mom and could rely on parental support when needed and 
return to school.

Today's street kids don't have that level of strong family contact or 
support although, the scientists said that people on the street 
maintain a fairly strong level of ongoing contact with family 
members, social workers, and pre-street friends.

A serious problem street kids face when trying to return to 
mainstream life is not having an address, phone number, clean 
clothes, and education -- all prerequisites to finding a job, said Benoit.

Benoit and Jansson asked the street kids about their backgrounds, 
health issues and the way they led their lives.

"They all have something to say and they want to tell their stories," 
said Jansson.

The research involved up to three interviews each with the street 
kids said the scientists who hope their study will help others see 
beyond the "stigma of homelessness" and show that street youth are 
much like other teens.

"They have friends and lovers, and they want jobs," said Jansson. 
"Like other teens, they want to join our community."

The preliminary analysis uncovered a number of startling facts: 35 
per cent of street kids have lived in foster care or group homes -- 
40 per cent of them having lived in at least four different homes 
before they hit age 15.

When asked whether they had ever suffered from depression, 60 per 
cent said "yes" compared to only five per cent of similar age youth 
living at home.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom