Homelessness is increasing in an alarming rate in Canada since the last decade. The most vulnerable and fastest growing segment of the homeless population consists of youth.
According to the research done by The State of Homelessness in Canada in 2014, about twenty percent of Canada’s homeless population is between age thirteen and twenty-four (Gaetz, Gulliver, Richter, 2014). This percentage of youth is often considered as a threat to the society because of their involvement in different criminal activities. However, street youth are more of a victim of problems like discrimination, harassment and crime then they are as perpetrators .According to the findings criminal behaviour is a response to the challenges of living on streets like the need of food clothes and shelter .Other survival were quasi-legal and attracted the attention of the legal system, like involvement in sex trade and panhandling. ”Drawing from past empirical and theoretical work on crime, Simons and Burt (2011) observe that past research shows those who break the law tend to be drawn from settings that provide certain repetitive or continuous negative circumstances.” (cite2).
Therefor, street youth are being criminalized because they tend to become a victim of peer pressure, they are negatively influenced by drugs or alcohol, and they experience childhood trauma by being mentally or physically abused. To begin with, One of the most significant milestones of adolescence is the development of complex social and problem-solving skills, moral judgment, and social values which are acquired, in part, through interpersonal relationships with peers (Hartup, 1983). It is also a time when peer conformity increases and greater importance is ascribed to being accepted as a member of a clique or social group (Berndt, 1979; Rice, 1978). As, children enter their teenage, they go through a lot of phases including self-identity, sexual role, their independence and the ability of cope with authority. In order to fit in and pass these phases, teens look upon to their peers and follow their path.
Youth who are new to the street, find their peers quickly in order to survive, and this can lead to forming relationships with street “predators” who are violent and manipulative .Peer relationships formed on streets have proved to be destructive and harmful in many ways, as when opportunity or necessity arises they would steal from each other. Peer victimization also occurs in the form of verbal and physical threats, betrayal, and physical/sexual assault. Both females and males are forced into unwanted sexual activity by street peers (Kurtz, Hick-Coolick, et al, 1996; KYSA, 2002).