Youth homelessness is rapidly increasing across Canada, especially in cities where affordable housing is in short supply. A new study shows that immigrants and newcomers under the age of 24 are particularly over-represented within the homeless population. While many lack affordable, adequate and permanent housing, others continue to live in “hidden homelessness” – or shared, over-crowded housing The report, Hidden in our Midst, is the result of collaboration between more than 15 agencies, with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto taking the lead. The report shows that immigrant and newcomer youth who are homeless face many challenges that adversely impact their mental health.
The report explores barriers that newcomer youth face in accessing health care, educational institutions, employment, housing, settlement agencies and counseling services. Newcomer youth report mental health challenges resulting from migration, family conflict and unsafe environments. Over one third of the newcomer youth surveyed identified as LGBTTIQ, which may lead to further discrimination. By identifying challenges that newcomer youth face, as well as existing service gaps, programs and policies can better address their needs.
Hidden in our Midst incorporates the voices of newcomer youth who are homeless as well as peer researchers who are immigrants themselves. The report advocates for representation of newcomer youth in program and policy planning, so that services and supports adequately reflect their needs.
The report highlights how different stressors experienced together can adversely impact mental health. Homelessness, insufficient income, lack of employment, family conflict and newcomer status all exert compounding effects on youth.
Read the Hidden in our Midst report on CAMH’s website, and check out the infographic that show the main findings.
CMHA Ontario is also focused on this issue. In May of 2014, the organization released Advancing Equity in Ontario: Understanding Key Concepts. The report describes the negative impact of various inequities, including those faced by newcomers, on individuals’ mental health.