Homeless-Youth Education and Its Hidden Capitalism: a Composite Case Study in North America


  • Domum Qualiter Institute for Equality in Development Innovations, United States
  • Sarah Neuman Institute for Equality in Development Innovations, United States




Chronic Homelessness, Education, Empowerment, Inequalities, Inner City


This research aims to understand why after establishing educational programs intended for youth at-risk of being homeless in inner-city urban contexts, youth still turn to homelessness in North America. This article describes a composite case study of three cities in North America to ensure the anonymity of all stakeholders, key informants, and practitioners providing qualitative data. The results show that the internal management of education programs-specifically, youth's potential behavior in three categories: violence, substance use, and intimate relationships are challenges that prevent organizations from successfully retaining youth engagement in education. More importantly, capitalism related to the street-trades is discussed as the key cause of persistent youth homelessness. Protecting youth from homelessness and ensuring access to compulsory public education must seek to identify mechanisms through which homeless youth can be exploited for profit. Addressing hidden structures of capitalism within homelessness in North America supports the prevention of chronic homelessness and disempowered life trajectories.


Abdul Rahman, M., Fidel Turner, J., & Elbedour, S. (2015). The U.S. Homeless Student Population: Homeless Youth Education, Review of Research Classifications and Typologies, and the U.S. Federal Legislative Response. Child & Youth Care Forum, 44(5), 687–709.

Allen, D. (2002). Research Involving Vulnerable Young People: A discussion of ethical and methodological concerns. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 9(3), 275–283.

Ausikaitis, A. E., Wynne, M. E., Persaud, S., Pitt, R., Hosek, A., Reker, K., Turner, C., Flores, S., & Flores, S. (2015). Staying in School: The Efficacy of the McKinney–Vento Act for Homeless Youth. Youth & Society, 47(5), 707–726.

Barlow, J. K. (2003). Examining HIV/AIDS among the Aboriginal population in Canada in the post-residential school era: Examen de l’incidence du VIH/SIDA au sein de la population autochtone au Canada. https://policycommons.net/artifacts/1223039/examining-hivaids-among-the-aboriginal-population-in-canada-in-the-post-residential-school-era/1776117/

Belcher, J. R., & DeForge, B. R. (2012). Social Stigma and Homelessness: The Limits of Social Change. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22(8), 929–946.

Biehal, N. (2014). Maltreatment in Foster Care: A review of the evidence. Child Abuse Review, 23(1), 48–60.

Birt, L., Scott, S., Cavers, D., Campbell, C., & Walter, F. (2016). Member Checking: A Tool to Enhance Trustworthiness or Merely a Nod to Validation? Qualitative Health Research, 26(13), 1802–1811.

Blackman, T., Greene, A., Hunter, D. J., McKee, L., Elliott, E., Harrington, B., Marks, L., & Williams, G. (2006). Performance Assessment and Wicked Problems: The Case of Health Inequalities. Public Policy and Administration, 21(2), 66–80.

Blackstock, C. (2012). Jordan’s Principle: Canada’s broken promise to First Nations children? Paediatrics & Child Health, 17(7), 368–370. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/17.7.368

Brown, J., Knol, D., Prevost-Derbecker, S., & Andrushko, K. (2007). Housing for Aboriginal Youth in the Inner City of Winnipeg. First Peoples Child & Family Review: A Journal on Innovation and Best Practices in Aboriginal Child Welfare Administration, Research, Policy & Practice, 3(2), 56–64.

Burrage, R. L., Momper, S. L., & Gone, J. P. (2022). Beyond trauma: Decolonizing understandings of loss and healing in the Indian Residential School system of Canada. Journal of Social Issues, 78(1), 27–52.

Cabus, S. J., & De Witte, K. (2011). Does school time matter?—On the impact of compulsory education age on school dropout. Economics of Education Review, 30(6), 1384–1398.

Christensen, J. (2012). “They want a different life”: Rural northern settlement dynamics and pathways to homelessness in Yellowknife and Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Canadian Geographies/Les Géographies Canadiennes, 56(4), 419–438.

Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (2006). Narrative Inquiry. In Handbook of complementary methods in education research (pp. 477–487). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Cronley, C., & Evans, R. (2017). Studies of resilience among youth experiencing homelessness: A systematic review. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(4), 291–310.

Cross, C. (2019). “You’re not alone”: The use of peer support groups for fraud victims. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 29(5), 672–691.

Davies, B. R., & Allen, N. B. (2017). Trauma and homelessness in youth: Psychopathology and intervention. Clinical Psychology Review, 54, 17–28.

Desmond, M., Gershenson, C., & Kiviat, B. (2015). Forced Relocation and Residential Instability among Urban Renters. Social Service Review, 89(2), 227–262.

Didden, R., VanDerNagel, J., Delforterie, M., & van Duijvenbode, N. (2020). Substance use disorders in people with intellectual disability. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 33(2), 124.

Duffy, M. (2010). Writing About Clients: Developing Composite Case Material and Its Rationale. Counseling and Values, 54.

Edwards, F. (2019). Family Surveillance: Police and the Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 5(1), 50–70.

Embleton, L., Lee, H., Gunn, J., Ayuku, D., & Braitstein, P. (2016). Causes of Child and Youth Homelessness in Developed and Developing Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 170(5), 435–444.

Feola, G. (2020). Capitalism in sustainability transitions research: Time for a critical turn? Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 35, 241–250. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2019.02.005

Flynn, M. B. (2021). Global capitalism as a societal determinant of health: A conceptual framework. Social Science & Medicine, 268, 113530.

French, M. T., Dunlap, L. J., Zarkin, G. A., McGeary, K. A., & Thomas McLellan, A. (1997). A structured instrument for estimating the economic cost of drug abuse treatment: The Drug Abuse Treatment Cost Analysis Program (DATCAP). Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 14(5), 445–455.

French, M. T., & McGeary, K. A. (1997). Letter: Estimating the economic cost of substance abuse treatment. Health Economics, 6(5), 539–544.

Geiger, J. M., Hayes, M. J., & Lietz, C. A. (2013). Should I stay or should I go? A mixed methods study examining the factors influencing foster parents’ decisions to continue or discontinue providing foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(9), 1356–1365.

Gwadz, M. V., Gostnell, K., Smolenski, C., Willis, B., Nish, D., Nolan, T. C., Tharaken, M., & Ritchie, A. S. (2009). The initiation of homeless youth into the street economy. Journal of Adolescence, 32(2), 357–377.

Hall, S., & Davis, M. (2021). Permission to Say “Capitalism”: Principles for Critical Social Science Engagement With GGR Research. Frontiers in Climate, 3.

Heerde, J. A., Scholes-Balog, K. E., & Hemphill, S. A. (2015). Associations Between Youth Homelessness, Sexual Offenses, Sexual Victimization, and Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Systematic Literature Review. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 181–212.

Hepburn, K., Barker, B., Nguyen, P., Dong, H., Wood, E., Kerr, T., & DeBeck, K. (2016). Initiation of drug dealing among a prospective cohort of street-involved youth. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 42(5), 507–512.

Horning, A., Poirier, M., Bermingham, R., & Thomas, C. (2022). Rules, gender dynamics, and structure of sex market facilitators. Trends in Organized Crime. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12117-022-09473-y

Jack, A. (2000). Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, Suite #202-355 Yellowhead Highway, Kamloops, British Columbia V2H 1H1, Canada; Tel: 250-828-9801; email: museum@secwepemc.

Karkov, N. R., & Valiavicharska, Z. (2018). Rethinking East-European Socialism: Notes Toward an Anti-Capitalist Decolonial Methodology. Interventions, 20(6), 785–813.

Kennedy, M. A., Klein, C., Bristowe, J. T. K., Cooper, B. S., & Yuille, J. C. (2007). Routes of Recruitment. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 15(2), 1–19.

Legano, L. A., Desch, L. W., Messner, S. A., Idzerda, S., Flaherty, E. G., Council on Child Abuse And Neglect, Council on Children with Disabilities, Haney, S. B., Sirotnak, A. P., Gavril, A. R., Girardet, R. G., Hoffert Gilmartin, A. B., Laskey, A., Mohr, B. A., Nienow, S. M., Rosado, N., Kuo, D. Z., Apkon, S., Davidson, L. F., … Yin, L. (2021). Maltreatment of Children With Disabilities. Pediatrics, 147(5), e2021050920.

Letkemann, P. G. (2004). First Nations Urban Migration and the Importance of “Urban Nomads” in Canadian Plains Cities: A Perspective from the Streets. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 13(2), 241–256.

Magolda, P., & Weems, L. (2002). Doing Harm: An Unintended Consequence of Qualitative Inquiry? Journal of College Student Development, 43(4), 490–507.

Manduca, R., & Sampson, R. J. (2021). Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA. Population and Environment, 42(4), 501–523.

Marshall, M. (1996). The key informant technique. Family Practice, 13(1), 92–97. https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/13.1.92

Moore, D., & Polsgrove, L. (1991). Disabilities, Developmental Handicaps, and Substance Misuse: A Review. International Journal of the Addictions, 26(1), 65–90. https://doi.org/10.3109/10826089109056240

Moore, H., Benbenishty, R., Astor, R. A., & Rice, E. (2018). The Positive Role of School Climate on School Victimization, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation Among School-Attending Homeless Youth. Journal of School Violence, 17(3), 298–310.

Morton, M. H., Kugley, S., Epstein, R., & Farrell, A. (2020). Interventions for youth homelessness: A systematic review of effectiveness studies. Children and Youth Services Review, 116, 105096.

Murray, E. (2021). Preying for money: Predatory schools false promise to students who are experiencing homelessness. National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Conference. https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/nyar_savannah/2021/2021/65

Ostler, J. (2015, March 2). Genocide and American Indian History. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.3

Roe-Sepowitz, D. E., Gallagher, J., Risinger, M., & Hickle, K. (2015). The Sexual Exploitation of Girls in the United States: The Role of Female Pimps. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(16), 2814–2830.

Schwan, K., French, D., Gaetz, S., Ward, A., Akerman, J., & Redman, M. (2018). Preventing youth homelessness: An international review of evidence. Wales Centre for Public Policy - Cardiff University. https://doi.org/10.54454/20181025

Semanchin Jones, A., Bowen, E., & Ball, A. (2018). “School definitely failed me, the system failed me”: Identifying opportunities to impact educational outcomes for homeless and child welfare-involved youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 91, 66–76.

Shaw, I., & Lunt, N. (2018). Forms of Practitioner Research. The British Journal of Social Work, 48(1), 141–157.

Smedema, S. M., & Ebener, D. (2010). Substance abuse and psychosocial adaptation to physical disability: Analysis of the literature and future directions. Disability and Rehabilitation, 32(16), 1311–1319.

Smithgall, C., DeCoursey, J., & Goerge, R. (2008). Does Money Matter? Foster Parenting and Family Finances. In Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

Syed, S. T., Gerber, B. S., & Sharp, L. K. (2013). Traveling Towards Disease: Transportation Barriers to Health Care Access. Journal of Community Health, 38(5), 976–993.

Turner, W., Hester, M., Broad, J., Szilassy, E., Feder, G., Drinkwater, J., Firth, A., & Stanley, N. (2017). Interventions to Improve the Response of Professionals to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence and Abuse: A Systematic Review. Child Abuse Review, 26(1), 19–39.

Tyler, K. A. (2006). A Qualitative Study of Early Family Histories and Transitions of Homeless Youth. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(10), 1385–1393.

Van Parijs, P. (2004). Basic Income: A Simple and Powerful Idea for the Twenty-First Century. Politics & Society, 32(1), 7–39.

van Duijvenbode, N., & VanDerNagel, J. E. L. (2019). A Systematic Review of Substance Use (Disorder) in Individuals with Mild to Borderline Intellectual Disability. European Addiction Research, 25(6), 263–282.

Walls, N. E., & Bell, S. (2011). Correlates of Engaging in Survival Sex among Homeless Youth and Young Adults. The Journal of Sex Research, 48(5), 423–436.

Werb, D., Kerr, T., Li, K., Montaner, J., & Wood, E. (2008). Risks Surrounding Drug Trade Involvement Among Street-Involved Youth. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 34(6), 810–820.

Wilk, P., Maltby, A., & Cooke, M. (2017). Residential schools and the effects on Indigenous health and well-being in Canada—A scoping review. Public Health Reviews, 38(1), 8.

Willis, C. L., & Wells, R. H. (1988). The Police and Child Abuse: An Analysis of Police Decisions to Report Illegal Behavior*. Criminology, 26(4), 695–716.

Wilson, T. D. (2019). A Note on Capitalist Commodification of the Homeless. Review of Radical Political Economics, 51(2), 298–309.

Yoder, K. A., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2003). Gang Involvement and Membership among Homeless and Runaway Youth. Youth & Society, 34(4), 441–467.



How to Cite

Qualiter, D. ., & Neuman, S. (2023). Homeless-Youth Education and Its Hidden Capitalism: a Composite Case Study in North America. International Journal of Qualitative Research, 3(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.47540/ijqr.v3i1.855