Tag Archives: research

Homeless Youth: Problems and Solutions to Finding Employment

Stephen Gaetz and Bill O’Grady did some research by examining the role that employment training has on homeless youth and how social exclusion plays a part as well.  Here is a research summary of that work.

What is this research about?

The research is about questioning the beliefs and current processes surrounding youth homelessness and work. Specifically, the researchers look at the role of employment training programs and their effectiveness by looking at existing literature and then offering ways in which those programs can become better.

What you need to know

Current employment training solutions and informal money making strategies for homeless youth are problematic. In order to be effective, training programs must address issues surrounding social exclusion, meeting basic needs, and understanding around the instability of everyday life. Programs must offer solutions that will be successful in the long-term.

What the researchers did

The researchers compiled existing research that explains the many issues involving street youth and work. They offered a new framework for organizations to consider in order to make employment training programs more effective.

social exclusion

What the researchers found

The researchers looked at the informal money making strategies outside of the traditional market. They found defining features that inform how homeless youth engage in the work force, which include social characteristics, background, and highly flexible cash-in-hand jobs. With these come negative consequences such as risk of criminalization and stigma. Past research showed an overwhelming percentage of homeless youth with the desire and motivation to want to work.

There are three main approaches to the employability of youth that currently in effect; the informal learning from family and community, obtaining education, and improving human capital by teaching hard and soft skills such as computer training or interview skills.

Employment programs rarely address how social exclusion collides with the ability to find and maintain jobs for homeless youth. Social exclusion can restrict people’s access to spaces and institutions, structural factors can limit people’s participation in society, and it informs myths about how people perceive youth which can gloss over inequalities.

The limits of employability were broken down by researchers to include the following: housing and shelter, lack of income, unstable education, compromised health, chaotic lifestyle, weak social capital and an interrupted adolescence.

When programs fail to see beyond stereotypes of street youth, they weaken the effectiveness of employment training.

Using this research

Researchers offer a social inclusion framework to provide a philosophical basis that suggests activities must support the developing adolescent, address barriers that prevent participation in employment and employment training. They also suggest structural supports are needed such as stable housing, a basic income, appropriate health care and social supports. Program components need to include marketing skills, personalized case management, supporting special needs, mentoring, job shadowing and opportunities for educational advancement. Institutional components must include ongoing funding, strategic partnerships, ongoing program evaluation and corporate engagement.

About the Researchers

Stephen Gaetz is a professor and the director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. He is also the President of the Raising the Roof Campaign. His interests focus on youth homelessness and using evidence based research to inform policy and practice.

Bill O’Grady is a sociology professor at the University of Guelph and is currently a member of Raising the Roof’s advisory board.


Human Capital
Social Exclusion
Hard Skills
Soft Skills


Gaetz, S., & O’Grady, B. (2013). Why Don’t You Just Get a Job? Homeless Youth, Social Exclusion and Employment Training. Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for policy and practice, 243-268.