Homeless youths most vulnerable to crime and violence
Washington: A new report has revealed that homeless young people are victims of crime at rates that society would consider unacceptable for any other group.
Researchers at York University and the University of Guelph conducted the study titled Surviving Crime and Violence: Street Youth and Victimization in Toronto.
The report highlights the degree to which it is street youth themselves - often perceived as delinquent and dangerous - who are vulnerable to crime and violence.
"The very people we are taught to fear are the ones who are most at risk," said Professor Stephen Gaetz, associate dean of research and field development in York``s Faculty of Education.
"More than 76 per cent of the homeless youth we surveyed said they had been victims of violent crime in the past year, and almost three-quarters of them reported multiple incidents,” Stephen said.
In comparison, about 40 per cent of young people in the general population reported that they had been victimized in the previous year, when the Canadian General Social Survey last asked them about it in 1999 - and they experienced mostly property crime.
Gaetz and University of Guelph Professor Bill O``Grady interviewed 244 homeless youths across Toronto last year about life on the streets.
Their report was commissioned by Justice for Children and Youth, a not-for-profit legal aid clinic that operates a Street Youth Legal Services program, providing legal advice and support to homeless youth in Toronto.
"Many people, including policy makers, believe that youth homelessness and crime are linked, and they use laws such as the Safe Streets Act to ``move along`` young people.
"In fact, our findings show that young homeless people are among the most victimized people in our society, and they need our protection,” said Gaetz.
The solution to problems youth face on the streets lies in changing the way youth homelessness is addressed, according to the report.
It calls for a balanced response that would balance preventive measures, an emergency response, and transitional support to move young people out of homelessness quickly.