Why is this research important?
Risky behaviours, like sharing syringes or unprotected sex, increase a person’s risk of developing HIV or hepatitis C. A common belief is that these behaviours are personal decisions. Understanding how health and social services are responsible for these health outcomes is important. Accessible services for street-involved youth can create more opportunities for these youth to make healthier choices. These services are especially useful for youth who use drugs.
Currently, the demand for these types of services are not being met. The authors look at the reasons why street-involved youth have difficulty accessing these services.
Difficulties accessing the services are defined by the following:
• The service doesn’t exist or is unavailable, and
• The service is not accessible due to opening hours, waiting times or an unwelcoming atmosphere.
1 EACH BIRTHDAY MEANS MORE DIFFICULTIES ACCESSING SERVICES
Youth services are usually unavailable for young adults ages 21 – 24. This means the young adults are introduced to services for adults of all ages. But addiction counselling services for adults focus on older generations that have been using drugs for much longer. A variety of services for different age groups among adults can benefit the youth transitioning between services.
2 HAVING A HOME MEANS LESS DIFFICULTY ACCESSING SERVICES
Homeless youth are less likely to access health and social services. But providing safe and secure housing for all street-involved youth can improve personal health outcomes. This can be done by using a ‘housing first’ strategy where age-appropriate housing is provided, regardless of drug or alcohol use. Other research found this can decrease substance abuse, improve mental health and quality of life, and strengthen community actions.
3 MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED FOR ABORIGINAL STREET-INVOLVED YOUTH
The authors found Aboriginal street-involved youth report less difficulty accessing health and social services. This suggests the services for Aboriginal youth are effective and more easily accessible. But the accuracy of the statement is debatable. Aboriginal youth tend to believe current services are not needed. So the barriers to accessing the services are not relevant. Complex social and cultural issues indicate the need for further research.
Providing health and social services for street-involved youth can improve their health outcomes. A priority of public policy should aim to limit problems to accessing these services. Introducing age-appropriate housing and services that are for street-involved youth can improve their chances to make healthier decisions.