Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. A. Christensen

Advisor Role

Primary Supervisor

Second Advisor

Dr. L. Eisler

Advisor Role

Second Reader & Committee Member


Tens of thousands of street-involved youth in Canada live in various forms of precarious housing – living outside on the streets, in youth shelters, couch surfing, and so on. Research into the needs of street youth often employs a “top-down” approach, relying on health researchers as experts on their needs as opposed to directly engaging the sentiments of the youth themselves. This literature is often based on the assumption that meeting the needs of street youth involves providing access to opportunities for minimizing the risks posed by street life. This study serves as a counterbalance to this literature by employing a symbolic interactionist and client-centred approach to give these youth the opportunity to describe their experiences of street life. Instead of focusing on protecting youth from risks, it treats them as capable individuals who are experts in defining their needs and as stakeholders in the services offered to them. There is also an identified need in the literature for research on the needs of street youth that is holistic and simultaneously examines multiple aspects of their lives. Through in-depth one-on-one interviews with 15 street youth in two Southern Ontario cities, I sought to gain a deeper understanding of how these youth define various aspects of their lived experiences of street involvement, their needs, and the ways in which they go about meeting those needs. Despite facing a number of challenges related to family conflict, mental health issues, and issues with obtaining shelter, among many others, participants of this study represent a highly resilient, resourceful and disciplined group of young people who are invested in the social services offered to them. I also argue that, in spite of the fact that they feel marginalized in society, the client-centred approach empowers these youth by honouring their wisdom as a key contribution to research directly impacting them.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Criminology Commons