Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Eli Teram

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study focuses upon youth shelters as non-profit, voluntary organizations, and their relationship with formal child welfare systems. Two case examples, Covenant House (CH) and Youth Without Shelter (YWS) are examined through archival material, participant observations of "shelter culture," and structured/unstructured interviews with front line and managerial shelter workers. These methodological tools provide a distinct portrait of the evolution, the "life stories," and the present day activities of two prominent Toronto youth shelters. The findings suggest that both Shelters' operating goals have been modified in order to reach a. suitable partnership with more entrenched and formal child welfare organizations (such as the Children's Aid Society). CH and YWS were envisioned by their architects as "alternatives" and "buffers" from the impersonal arid bureaucratic formal system. However, both Shelters are now increasingly described as "dumping grounds" for formal system players, and less of "alternative havens" or "buffers." CH and YWS are currently crowded facilities predominantly harboring "system kids" rather than "street kids." The consequences of such an arrangement are threefold: 1) CH and YWS no longer possess an internal environment to support traditional street kids; 2) Both Shelters no longer exist as "short-term emergency crisis centers" and have strayed from their original intentions; and, 3) Many shelter workers feel frustrated and impotent in working within this dynamic. Two distinct explanations for CH's and YWS' transformation are discussed, as well, numerous recommendations are provided regarding the survival of such youth shelters.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons