{post 2} the plight or flight of displaced youth.

two academic writings. brief analysis. reflection. judith tan.

Woman jeans and sneaker shoes
(IBB 2015) Youths who become homeless often feel a sense of self-protection and empowerment in their choice to leave home.

After reading through online newspaper articles, I moved on to search for academic writings in order to delve a little deeper into the issue of homelessness. I have chosen two articles with the same focus in mind of transitioning to homelessness. This time however, instead of covering the general homeless population, I have narrowed down the demographic focus to look into how youths become homeless.

{academic writing 1}

writer context.
Justeen Hyde*, an academic in the field of research and evaluation in anthropology, writes that very little research has been done regarding how youth themselves perceive their circumstances (Hyde 2005, p. 172). What makes her stand effective, however, is that it is not only an opinion, but well-investigated and backed with primary research and countless secondary sources.

article argument.

When viewed through the lens of victimization, service providers understand young people’s movements from home to street as desperate acts that reflect a sense of powerlessness. The question of whether or not young people share this perspective is important to consider; their perceptions of how and why they are homeless directly impact their perceptions of homelessness as well as their ability or willingness to transition into more stable housing. (Hyde 2005, pp. 172-173)

This excerpt from Hyde’s paper captures the essence of what she desires to bring to light. She stands on the side of homeless youth, rather than being condescending to them, an attitude commonly held by homelessness services.

In interviewing young people experiencing homelessness, Hyde found that their attitude regarding their situations was one of ‘agency’**, rather than as a victim (Hyde 2005, p. 175). They have a sense of empowerment in their decision to leave home, which is often their only option other than to remain and be subject to an environment of violence and abuse (Hyde 2005, p. 180). When working with homeless youth, services must change their approach of focusing on victimisation, so as to enable youth to transition back to secure living while maintaining a sense of independence (Hyde 2005, p. 180).

Furthermore, refusal of help is often seen as a result of ‘psychological or mental health problems’ (Hyde 2005, p. 181). However, this is often not the case, but instead a consequence of the youths’ fear of disappointment, failure or being let down, a familiar experience in their interactions with past authoritative figures in their lives (Hyde 2005, pp. 180-181).

personal contemplation.
This article questions the common mindset that homeless people are victims. Especially when seeking to assist youths who are homeless, perhaps the approach needs to be changed. Instead of viewing them as victims of circumstances in plight, we can see them in flight – as individuals who have made a personal decision to flee. Perhaps instead of treating them as if we feel sorry for them, we can show compassion and empathy but still help them to maintain a sense of independence.

*Justeen Hyde is Director of Research & Evaluation for the Institute for Community Health, and also a lecturer at Harvard Medical School

**Agency – the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in a world. (sociology and philosophy) (Wikipedia 2016)

{academic writing 2}

writer context.
The second academic writing is by Guy Johnson and Chris Chamberlain, assistant professors at RMIT University. Johnson is director at CASR Research Centre, and Chamberlain is an expert on homelessness who has worked with the ABS in creating methodology to count the homeless population from census data. The consequent findings influenced the government’s 2008 white paper which aimed to halve population by 2020 (for comparison, refer to post 1: the shift to homelessness, articles 4 and 5).

Together, they have authored several other texts on homelessness. Prior to the publication of this article, they collaborated on two texts regarding policy (Chamberlain & Johnson 2006) and how an unclear definition of homelessness gets between the homeless and help (Chamberlain & Johnson 2001).

article argument.
Some believe that ‘early intervention’ of youths transitioning to homelessness is too costly and does not have definite results. Johnson and Chamberlain conducted extensive primary research with 1677 youths homeless or at risk of homelessness. Through interviews, data-gathering and analysis, they sought to show what happens when early intervention fails, or is non-existent (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008).

The longer a youth is homeless, the more likely he/she is to adapt to it as a ‘way of life’. This is called the ‘social adaptation account’ (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 565).  Many factors influence a youth to remain homeless, but these can be brought down to two factors. The inner-yearning for belonging which exists in everyone (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 565) its the interlinked matter of homeless subculture, and secondly, the boarding house, one of the main emergency accommodation providers of Australia’s major cities, a place where the aforementioned subculture thrives (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, pp. 570-571).

A 12-bedroom residence approved as a boarding house in North St Mary’s, NSW. (What It’s Worth 2009)

In their life prior to becoming homeless, youth are likely to have experienced social exclusion. They often find social inclusion, or a sense of ‘belonging’, among other homeless people (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 565). As they break from their acquaintances who are housed, they seek new friends (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 569). They are initiated into homeless subculture, and they learn coping and survival ‘strategies’ to fit in and/or ‘counteract loneliness and isolation’, as well as survive the difficult environment of boarding houses. These strategies ‘undermine’ attempts to return to permanent accommodation (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, pp. 566, 571, 573). A main strategy is substance use, which grows to become substance abuse (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 566). Thus the want for belonging and the need for boarding houses lead to the adoption of homeless subculture, a ‘double edged sword’ which ‘perpetuates homelessness’ (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 576).

Johnson and Chamberlain write that the short-term support services currently available are not enough. The solution needs to be long-term. The government needs to give funding to help homeless people remain housed. If not, there will be greater cost for these individuals, and also the community (Johnson & Chamberlain 2008, p. 578).

personal contemplation.
Here is another vicious cycle (see post 1: the shift to homelessness, article 3). Because of low income and high rents, youth have no choice but to stay in boarding houses. In their need for acceptance, they seek to need for acceptance, seek to fit into the homeless subculture which thrives in such accommodation. As they seek to fit in and also cope in the houses’ unfavourable environment, they turn to substance use. This often becomes substance abuse, which weakens and stops attempts of finding a stable job and/or returning to permanent housing. Thus they have to remain in boarding houses, and when they have no means to remain there, they move to the street, which compounds the cycle and makes it more likely for them to become used to the homeless life and remain in it.


{title image}

Infinity Business Brokers. 2015, Walking away, IBB, viewed 4 September 2016, <http://www.infinitybusinessbrokers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Dollarphotoclub_81667642.jpg>.

{academic writing 1}

Hyde, J. 2005, ‘From homelessness to street: Understanding young people’s transitions into homelessness’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 171-183.

Institute for Community Health, ICH, viewed 30 August 2016, <http://icommunityhealth.org/about-us/staff/justeen-hyde-phd/>.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., viewed 24 August 2016, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(philosophy)>.

{academic writing 2}

Johnson, G. & Chamberlain, C. 2008, ‘From Youth to Adult Homelessness’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 563-582.

Informit, RMIT Publishing, viewed 25 August 2016, <http://search.informit.com.au/search;rec=11;action=showNextRecs>.

Research Bank, RMIT University, viewed 25 August 2016, <https://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:19417>.

Research Bank, RMIT University, viewed 25 August 2016, <http://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:25159>.

RMIT University, viewed 25 August 2016, <http://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/j/johnson-associate-professor-guy.>

Australian Policy Online, viewed 25 August 2016, <http://apo.org.au/creator/chris-chamberlain>.

RMIT University, viewed 25 August 2016, <http://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/c/chamberlain-associate-professor-chris>.

What’s It Worth. 2009, Boarding House for Auction, What’s It Worth, viewed 6 September 2016, <http://www.whatsitworth.com.au/storage/368/images/property/368_195379_1264.jpg>.

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