Education and Homelessness: What Part Does Education Play?

It’s no secret that we live in a wealthy, well educated country. Literacy rates in Canada are among the highest in the world, and completing high school and post-secondary education is considered a norm. This isn’t the case for homeless youth, however. Studies find that 63% to 90% of youth experiencing homelessness did not complete high school despite being the age to have done so.

There is a direct link between education and homelessness, youth homelessness in particular, though a lack of education isn’t always the reason for homelessness. Many of the people I’ve met in my homeless era, including myself, ended up homeless due to domestic violence and abuse. Of course, those who drop out of high school have a greater chance of experiencing unemployment, and therefore poverty which ends up turning into homelessness.

A Toronto shelter study found that 64% of shelter users didn’t finish high school, and when compared to information on employment, it was found that those who finished their education were more likely to be employed versus those who didn’t. It’s also important to note that youth who are homeless during their schooling often drop out due to instability and lack of resources. It’s difficult for homeless youth to return to school once they’ve dropped out since they don’t have access to a stable home, support, income, or food. Unstable housing can greatly interrupt school attendance, as well as income having to take greater priority over regular attendance. Health related issues can be a contributing factor as well, along with proximity to schools.

Peterborough’s 2016 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness showed that 20% of participants in the study went on to post secondary, whereas only 29% of participants completed high school, 40% dropped out of high school, and 11% have elementary school listed as their highest level of education. A man by the name of Eric Weissman did a survey on post-secondary homelessness, and found that 3.5 per cent of post-secondary students in Canada, or about 70,000 students, experience homelessness, and the main reason is job and/or housing loss. Students in this situation often have to sacrifice schooling in order to search for income and housing.

Some of the barriers to education include but aren’t limited to:

  • Unstable housing
  • Displacement (leaving one’s community)
  • Lack of parental support
  • Domestic violence
  • Health conditions
  • Learning disabilities
  • School enrolment policies
  • Lack of income
  • Lack of transportation
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Discrimination

It’s important to understand the aspect that education plays on homelessness. Homelessness isn’t just a housing issue. There are many factors that play into the homeless crisis, not just in Peterborough, but all across Ontario, Canada and even the world.

– Written By Daehani Mpoyi


OPIRG Peterborough