Getting Help: Findings from Two World Cafés with Youth who Experience Homelessness


  • Julia Woodhall-Melnik
  • Sarah Hamilton-Wright
  • Eden Hamilton-Wright
  • Sara J.T. Guilcher
  • Flora I. Matheson



Studies indicate that youth who experience homelessness are more likely than their peers to have mental health and substance use concerns. The objective of this study was to investigate youth views of ideal services and service provision environments that facilitate help seeking. Data were collected from two World Café events in Canada where youth (n=14) were asked to discuss their experiences with housing, mental health and addictions services. The discussions were captured visually by a graphic recorder and on paper tablecloths that were drawn and written on by the youth. These visual data, along with field notes prepared by the research team, were analyzed. The findings indicated that barriers to help seeking included stigma, institutional distrust and fear, negative relationships, and the lack of self-awareness. Facilitators included positive therapeutic relationships, services with the capacity to offer care, and non-judgmental environments. Youth wanted services that provide peer support, allow them to participate more in their care decisions, and use self-directed healing strategies. Service providers and policymakers should offer programming that facilitates youth access. They should consider the barriers that youth experience and seek to construct interventions for youth that are judgement free, confidential, and actively engage youth in their own care.