AbstractsSocial Work

"I spent my whole life just walking around, trying to find a place to sleep" : describing the experience of youth hidden homelessness

by Carol Alynn Gausvik

Institution: University of British Columbia
Department: Social Work
Degree: Master of Social Work - MSW
Year: 2015
Record ID: 2058969
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/52819


Hidden homelessness is insecurity of tenure or temporary habitation. This can include couch surfing, living in transitional housing, sub-letting, sleeping in vehicles, staying in motels, or staying in places not fit for human habitation. Hidden homelessness is not well understood as it is by nature hidden from researchers, policy-makers, service providers, and the general public. Youth in particular are vulnerable to this type of homelessness. Homelessness puts people at risk for increased health concerns, both physical and mental. It is well known that homelessness costs the social welfare system in terms of emergency, mental health, and correctional service use. While this knowledge is used in addressing street homelessness, less is known about the connection between hidden homelessness and its impacts on these services. To address this knowledge gap, this study sought to answer the question: How do young people who are currently or have previously experienced hidden homelessness describe that experience? This paper reports findings from interviews with six participants who were or are experiencing hidden homelessness. Participants reported experiences of stress, difficulty in school/work, and the need to remain hidden. Implications for social work practice are discussed.