Background: The aim of this study is to capture the most important quality of life (QoL) needs
identified by youth experiencing homelessness in the Region of Waterloo. Palepu, Hubley, Russell, Gadermann and Chinni originally conducted a similar study in 2012. Their study identified QoL needs for the broader homeless population. This research study intends to identify age-specific QoL needs specifically for the homeless youth population. Young people who have experienced homelessness are interviewed to identify aspects important to their overall QoL.
Methods: A document analysis was conducted on four local official planning documents, five social planning documents for the Region of Waterloo, and one from the government of Ontario. The document analysis was completed to add empirical substance in order to provide a planning rationale to understand effective engagement processes with homeless youth. Individual interviews were conducted with 15 homeless youths between the ages of 16-25 who identified as homeless or recently homeless. Interviews were conducted at two youth shelters in the Region of Waterloo, OneRoof: Providing a Roof and Lutherwood: SafeHaven. Participants were recruited to participate in 15-20 minute interviews to identify important QoL needs of homeless youth.
Results: The three key findings include the following: QoL is a universal term used across many publications and reports, but is not defined; a general lack of youth engagement and public consultation with homeless youths, and; that the QoL needs of homeless youth are distinct from those of homeless adults. As a result of this study, a clearer understanding exists of the term QoL with respect to the homeless youth population. Six major QoL needs specific to homeless youth were identified through this research. These six QoL needs include: family and friends, basic necessities, education, health, community resources, and self-care/awareness.
Recommendations: The main recommendation to emerge from this study is that social planners consult with homeless youth when creating social planning documents affecting the homeless population. The term QoL must be defined in the context of all populations, including age- specific groups. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended to integrate the helping professions with planners. Planners must work with other professionals in the community to gather more valid and meaningful feedback.
Conclusions: The findings of this study are intended to assist researchers and professionals in understanding differences in age-specific needs within vulnerable population groups. A shift towards collaboration with vulnerable populations redefines the term expert-based model. QoL has become a “trendy” phrase to use in planning documents, however more research is needed to better understand the implications for planners and homeless youths. This research study is exploratory in nature; the results identified in this research study are to be viewed as a stepping- stone toward further research and changes in practice.||en