Street Youth...Their Story!
By James Wiley
11 Aug 2012
In 1992, I was asked by the United Church of Canada to produce a photo essay about street youth for display at a major conference it was hosting. I spent 3 weeks working on the project, mainly at night and the early hours of the morning. Throughout this period, I made many friends and the kids were so open and giving that it was heartwaming. I still think of them from time to time. Where are they now? Some are probably dead. Nevertheless, they will not be forgotten!
The street youth population is diverse, complex and heterogeneous. The generic term "street youth" is made up of a number of subcultures (by no means mutually exclusive) including hard-core street entrenched young people, squatters, group home kids, child welfare kids, soft-core 'twinkies', "in-and-outers', punks, runaways, throwaways, refugees and immigrants, young single mothers, and those who are homeless because their entire family are homeless. Within these makeshift 'categories' are numerous descriptors that tend to signal street activities such as gang bangers, prostitutes, drug dealers, drug users, panhandlers, and squeegeeers. While there is considerable diversity in the age ranges considered by researchers, providers and policy makers to define street youth, 16 - 24 years of age is accepted by many as reflects both the age limits of many services and the age range of the social networks of many youths. Street youths are generally understood to be young individuals who do not have a permanent place to call home, and who instead, spend significant amount of time/energy on the street (e.g., in alleyways, parks, storefronts, dumpsters, etc.); in squats (located usually in abandoned buildings); at youth shelters and centres; and/or with friends (typically referred to as "couch surfers").