Street Involved Youth and Companion Animals: A Phenomenological Study

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Caines, Melissa
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Of the approximate one hundred and fifty thousand youth in Canada who are homeless on any given night as many as 25 percent of them share their lives with companion animals (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006) . For many of these young people their companion animal is their only source of family and their pets provide many benefits to them including emotional, physical, and psychological support. Despite these benefits companion animals also present youth experiencing homelessness with negative consequences, such as being rejected from or refused service options, including shelters, employment agencies, and social services. In spite of these drawbacks research on homeless youth report that they continuously opt to stay with their pets instead of accessing such services (Lem et al., 2013). Six youth between the ages of 16-24 years and who utilized the services of ARK Outreach, were interviewed for the purpose of exploring the experiences of homeless youth with companion animals in Halifax from their own perspective. The interviews focused on gaining an in-depth understanding of the roles and relationships between homeless youth and their pets. Moustakas (1994) transcendental phenomenological approach was used in data analysis to identify and discuss six themes that developed, including emotional support, protection and safety, responsibility and motivation, unfair treatment and persecution, challenges, and solutions. In conclusion, three areas in need of further investigation are outlined.
Youth, companion animals, homelessness