A new report is calling on the provincial government to develop and implement a plan to end youth homelessness by next year.
The report was released Friday by Jennifer Charlesworth, the provincial Representative for Children and Youth. It was written by University of Calgary social work graduate student Katherine McParland and included contributions from 231 youth across B.C. who had been or are currently homeless, as well as data collected during youth-led forums on how to end youth homelessness.
"A plan to address adult homelessness would not deal with the unique and often very different needs of homeless youth," the report stated. "The need for a youth-specific plan is clear."
The report also recommended the government seek input from youth with lived experience when developing its plan.
There were several pathways into youth homelessness that were identified, including unsafe homes, addiction or mental health issues, discrimination and stigma, affordability and a lack of available housing, and an unsafe or unresponsive foster care system.
"Youth homelessness is a serious issue in B.C. and young people who are in government care or receiving services can be among the most vulnerable to experiencing homelessness due to the trauma, disruptions and adversity they have experienced," Charlesworth said in a statement accompanying the report.
Some of the barriers for young people to access housing were found to be long wait lists, discrimination, and a shortage of housing options geared specifically towards youth.
"Currently, the magnitude of youth homelessness is still being uncovered with the development of youth homeless counts and, as of yet, there are no dedicated provincial or federal funding programs designed to meet the distinct needs of homeless youth," the report stated.
Proposed solutions to the problem included improving emergency responses, increasing cultural services available to at-risk youth, improving education and employment opportunities and listening to young people who have been or are currently homeless.