Approximately 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by mental health issues, yet fewer than 1 in 5 receive the support they need. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought school closures, social isolation and economic hardship, levels of distress soared among young people, with the potential for long-term health consequences. Many faced challenges in finding and maintaining employment, as the sectors that typically employ younger workers, including retail and food service, faced widespread job losses. With little access to income, young people struggling to secure affordable housing often found themselves stuck in the shelter system and unable to move forward with their lives.
Youth aged 13–24 make up nearly 20% of the homeless population in Canada. For Indigenous and Black youth, and youth who identify LGBTTQ+, the barriers to safe and stable housing are even greater. Across all populations, childhood abuse and involvement with child protection services are key drivers of youth homelessness in Canada, and approximately 40% of youth report being under age 16 when they first experienced homelessness.