Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Michael Pratt

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Very little research has been carried out with young homeless females in Canada. Therefore, the following study investigated homeless in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region, in two age groups of female adolescents from two different types of settings, a youth drop in centre and a female youth shelter. One sample of 8 female youth was between the ages of 14-19 and was presently homeless. The other sample was an older group of 5 individuals between the ages of 19-27, who had experienced homelessness in their earlier adolescent years. A semi-structured, open-ended interview was carried out with these 13 females. The interview was also structured to capture their life story. They were asked questions about their childhood, their family, their schooling, their homeless experience and their future. The older sample of females was also asked questions about their pathway out of homelessness. Three broad research objectives were outlined: to develop an in-depth understanding of females’ experiences of homelessness; to identify and link the individual, family, school and structural risk factors that are critical for female adolescent homelessness in the K-W region, as described by these adolescents; and to compare the similarities and differences that may emerge between two age groups of female youth regarding their homeless experiences and to identify the protective factors that were important for the older group in their pathway out of homelessness. A qualitative analysis of the results revealed that there were two types of homelessness stories, a street story and a shelter story, and that there were a number of substantial differences between the two stories, including drug use, sexual behavior, negative school experiences and no contact with their biological father, which suggested that the street story was associated with greater risks. However, addressing the second research objective, all of these female youth were experiencing multiple risk factors at all the three levels, individual, family-school-peer and structural, therefore increasing their chances of becoming homeless. Having supportive and caring relationships and learning about themselves were the two primary factors that seemed to have been important for the older youth in finding their pathway out of homelessness. Also, there were some noteworthy differences in the comments of the two age groups. For example, the younger group of female youth spoke about how their friends became more important than school, and their close siblings and peer relations. Whereas, the older group of females spoke about sibling abuse, their concrete plans regarding their schooling and they used mental health terminology, such as depression and suicide. Overall, both age groups had experienced a number of family conflicts, had negative relationships with their mother, had very little contact with their fathers and described similar homeless and school experiences. The stories documented by this thesis in the area of female youth homelessness provide a number of possible suggestions for future research with this particular population of homeless youth. Homelessness is a complicated issue and a single intervention program designed for homeless youth in general is not going to address the varied types of homeless situations that different youth face. The streets, with all of their dangers and hazards, appear to entrench the youth that go to them, likely making it harder for them to find their pathway out of homelessness. We have to address all youth’s individual needs, by helping them to feel connected to their families, schools, and communities.

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