Incorporating Youth Voice into Services for Young People Experiencing Homelessness.

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Graduate School of Social Work


Homeless youth are typically served through a traditional service system that provides important basic needs but tends to be limited in scope, deficit-based, and adult-led, creating challenges for engaging youth in making real change in their lives. In contrast, a youth voice approach emphasizes building relationships with youth, holistically and as respected partners in services. Several different practice frameworks may help homeless service providers integrate youth voice into their programming. A positive youth development (PYD) approach aims to build assets in young people, often by empowering them through skill building, team-based activities, and projects. Empowerment practice has emerged as a way to promote youth agency and leadership. And, recently, a trauma-informed lens has permeated many homeless youth services. This chapter describes these three frameworks, outlines how such frameworks can lead to the empowerment of marginalized youths’ voices, and reviews the most recent literature on empowerment programming with homeless youth. The chapter concludes that providing services to young people experiencing homelessness through a lens of youth voice is likely to help youth strengthen social networks while building individual skills useful in exiting the streets.

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