Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Joanna Ochocka

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Throughout the past years, homeless youth have been involved in activism in Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W), a mid-size city located in southern Ontario. Such activism has caused a great deal of controversy in the K-W community. The main objective of this research was to explore that controversy. The three main research questions used to explore this controversy were: (1) Why do homeless youth become involved in activism? (2) What are the effects of homeless youth activism? (3) What factors limit or facilitate homeless youth activism? I used a participatory action research approach, consisting of a steering committee of homeless youth and two hired homeless youth researchers. The hired researchers and I conducted a total of 13 interviews -5 adult key informants and 8 homeless youth- and 40 homeless youth completed surveys. Five themes emerged from both youth and adult interviews to clarify the controversy surrounding homeless youth activism: (1) the need/desire for social change in our society; (2) the importance of activism; (3) concerns about homeless youth; (4) factors limiting activism; (5) suggestions for effective action. On one hand, findings suggest that the motives for and effects of homeless youth activism are complex and political and that allowing homeless youth to be agents of change can have important benefits for their lives and for the community. On the other hand, certain concerns and limitations negatively affect the community's view of activism. These include concerns about homeless youth activists and their tactics, misunderstandings and situational/personal variations among participants, and the paternalistic/conservative nature of the K-W service system. Based on these findings, I provide recommendations for homeless youth activists, community workers/funders, and government actors in the Kitchener-Waterloo community.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Psychology Commons