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Street Kids

Street Kids: The Tragedy of Canada's Runaways

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 261
  • Book Info
    Street Kids
    Book Description:

    Webber cuts a comprehensible path through the tangle of forces, including family breakdown and social-service failure, that accelerate the tragedy of Canada's runaways. She suggests measures that might help more of them beat the streets.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5731-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    AfterRunaways: 24 Hours on the Streetsaired in September 1987, alarmed Canadians jammed cbc telephone lines with calls and flooded the desks of newspaper editors with letters, generally registering horror at the televised images of emotionally racked, penniless, and homeless adolescents on the streets of our major cities.

    My own reaction to the documentary was mixed. On the one hand, and all to the good, I felt that the exposé might help dispel whatever remained of Canada’s mythical image as a country benevolent towards it most vulnerable citizens. On the other hand,Runawaysfocused on the sensational, offering pictures...

  5. 1 Street Kids
    (pp. 13-38)

    Canadian streets destroy kids. Some are casualties of pimp violence and trick violence and pusher violence. Some are poisoned by drugs. All of them die at least a little from despair and broken hearts in a community where ‘friends are just dudes … who haven’t hurt you yet.’¹

    Life on the streets is a scavenger’s existence, a restless hunt for cash or for anything that can be converted into cash or a bed or a meal or drugs to sustain the hunter for one more day. The inner-city corridor staked out by homeless people is not just another neighbourhood marked...

  6. 2 Destroyed and Destroying Families
    (pp. 39-78)

    We meet in an office at her Halifax group home, superficially a typical house in an ordinary neighbourhood, substantially a miniinstitution. Trim, in tight jeans, Jessie sits across from me, fidgeting in an overstuffed old chair. A conventionally pretty, baby-faced blonde with startling brown eyes, Jessie could have stepped out ofSeventeenmagazine. Obviously bright, she is easy to like. I have to suppress a laugh when she confesses that she sees herself as fat, ugly, and stupid. She does not see in any mirror, including the mirror of her mind, what others see. Rather, Jessie sees the picture her...

  7. 3 Sexually Exploited Kids
    (pp. 79-134)

    When I first met Patsy, she looked tawdry and garish. Thick neon-blue shadow rose to her eyebrows. Caked-on blusher masked her face. A tangle of gold chains, a shiny purple tank top, wispy peroxide-yellow hair, and a rhinestone cross dangling from one ear completed her image of tough defiance.

    The next day, as we sat across from each other in the din of the Day & Night Restaurant in Victoria, a hang-out for street-battered types, Patsy seemed different – younger, softer, surprisingly spontaneous and girlish for a sixteen-year-old who had spent three years hardening on the street and on the prostitutes’...

  8. 4 Homeless and Hungry
    (pp. 135-162)

    For many Canadians, wretched multitudes of children in Asia, Africa, and Latin America may seem remote, part of a far-away world very different from our own. A ‘them’ issue that doesn’t touch ‘us.’ Misery for children in Canada may not seem comparable to that in, say, Calcutta. Yet, the most striking images inSalaam Bombay, the acclaimed 1988 film about India’s street gamines, apply internationally. Except for culturally distinct references, such as street children working as tea vendors, the story parallels that of throwaway kids in European and North American cities.

    Canada’s cast-offs, like India’s, sleep in back alleys; serve...

  9. 5 The Crime Traps: Poverty and Illiteracy
    (pp. 163-198)

    Poverty, curtailed during the boom years of the early 1970s, made a stunning come-back in the 1980s. Journalists, statisticians, social scientists, and especially watch-dogs, such as the National Anti-Poverty Organization, recorded the grim trends. By the late 1980s, misery had reached levels unprecedented in the history of this country, with the exception of the Dirty Thirties. Unemployment vaulted, wage value plummeted, and the social net shrank, causing some Canadians to question their belief that our government provides the buffer that ensures basics for all. With the proliferation of poor people, the growth industries of despair – hostels and food banks...

  10. 6 Drugs: Killing the Pain
    (pp. 199-238)

    ‘Hello, my name is Crystal … I’m just a junkie whore’ began the audio tape. I’d put the word out to my network that I wanted to meet street kids who were struggling to get their lives together. Crystal was eager enough to tape an introduction and deliver it to me through a mutual streetworker friend. She began by talking about her family.

    Crystal’s brother is dead. Stoned insensible, he dropped a lit cigarette on a couch and was incinerated. ‘My brother had no drug of preference; he preferred anything he could get,’ Crystal says. Her other brother, addicted to...

  11. 7 Beating the Street
    (pp. 239-248)

    Street kids and other imperilled youngsters need the same things all children thrive on. More than anything, they need love: one-to-one and unconditional from a dependable adult, their very own family of sorts. They need roots, security, protection, commitment, understanding, and a great deal more patience than the most trying of typical kids. They need opportunities and choices.

    They also need special services and supports that youth workers, child advocates, some professionals, and the kids themselves have been demanding for a decade. Safe houses top the list. To prevent new runaways who don’t already live in the inner city from...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 249-261)