Living on the Streets in Canada: A Feminist Narrative Study of Girls and Young Women
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Homelessness affects thousands of girls and young women in Canada. Terms that are commonly used to describe the homeless include lazy, mentally ill, middle aged, and male. The reality is that homelessness is not limited to a particular age, gender, or ethnocultural group, or to individuals of any single intellectual ranking. As a result of the prevailing stereotypes, little research has been conducted on homelessness among adolescent females, making it difficult to capture an accurate and comprehensive picture of the full scope of the problem. The purposes of this feminist narrative study were to (1) explore the intersections between homelessness and health among adolescent girls, with particular attention to the influence of contextual factors such as violence, gender, and poverty; and (2) to examine how these young women access health care, barriers they encounter, and factors that contribute to their health promotion. The sample consisted of ten females, ages 16-21, who were interviewed either individually or in small groups. Consistent with feminist research approaches, the interviews were conducted in an interactive manner in order to encourage critical reflection and dialogue. Data analysis consisted of a thematic analysis of the participants' experiences. Findings revealed that most girls had fled from difficult, and at times dangerous, situations at home to lives on the street that brought a new set of challenges, including a multitude of health problems and exposure to violence, chronic poverty, and discrimination. Many barriers to effective health care were described. In this article, the findings of the research will be presented and implications for health and social service providers will be addressed, including recommendations for programming and policy.
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