Youth homelessness is a significant social issue globally, both in developing countries and many developed countries. In developing countries, research and preventions has mostly been focussing on "street children", while in developed countries, central concerns in the research and prevention involve breakdown in family relationships and other causes that lead to young people leaving home. The term "street children" also includes street workers who are not actually homeless.
The exact definition of youth homelessness varies by region. In the United States, a homeless youth is someone who is under the age of 21 and is unable to safely live at a relative, and has no other safe alternative living arrangement. In Australia, there are three categories of homelessness which include those who live from one emergency shelter to another (in homeless shelters of 'couch surfing') as well as those living in accommodation that falls below minimum community standards (boarding houses and caravan parks).
Homeless people, and homeless organizations, are sometimes accused or convicted of fraudulent behaviour. Criminals are also known to exploit homeless people, ranging from identity theft to tax and welfare scams. These incidents often leads to negative connotations on the homeless.
Youth homelessness in Australia is a significant social issue, affecting tens of thousands of young people in the country. In 2006, the Australian government estimate, focusing on homeless school children, found some 20,000 homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 18. Another estimate find approximately 44,000 homeless Australians under the age of 25.
Activists maintain that the majority of young people left home because of family breakdowns, often created by domestic violence and abuse. An estimate by Swinburne University found that over $600 million is spent each year on health and justice services for homeless youth.
Researchers have studied the prevalence of psychological distress and mental illness among homeless youth in Australia.
In Canada, youth homelessness is recognized as a significant social issue, however, no nationwide strategy or study has been conducted.
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