Young people are just Bored? or 6 other reasons why young people are on the streets.



So goes the common story about why young people might be on the streets. But, aside from those who do detached youthwork, might there be actually other reasons why young people might be there. Even in a much disputed small scale research by YFC recently revealed that a large % of young people liked being on the streets with their friends. And strangely, when I speak to young people about being on the streets, they may say that they’re bored, but this is merely to provoke a conversation about trying to get free activities, especially on meeting them for the first time. It is often just a defence mechansim. watch young people week by week in the same space and its not boredom. The streets have meaning, and are space for more construction, than ‘just because they’re bored’. What it also implies is that other activities are boring to them, and the streets are a chosen space of entertainment to cure boredom. The streets hold danger, creativity, sociability. Why else might young people be on the streets?

  1. A Place of Freedom – to be themselves, without the gaze of adults. It might be the only place they can choose to be.
  2. A place of escape. Beyond the personal choice, young people might find the streets a place of safety to escape from any physical, emotional or intellectual hurt from inside a home, and this needn’t be ‘abuse’ – just family life that causes personal stress and anxiety
  3. A place of power. In this space, albeit usually a public one, young people get to make choices about who, what and when happens, about the resources, activities, and people required, about who is popular, and who is important. About who is in control and makes decisions. It is a power they often don’t get the opportunity to exercise elsewhere. 
  4. A place of Creativity. Where there are possibilities to explore, the encounters with adults, the shops, buses and people around. A place to make up games, to race, chase and play. To make up games, to try new things.
  5. A place of social learning. Where the groups and gatherings form, where people are social (more social than inside).
  6. A place to challenge the social order and to create one. The only space left to make a mark. to gain attention, to cry for help. The public space. Its a place of community where knowledge is shared and community develops that is hidden away.

And these are just 6 reasons. There are at least 6 others. Often young people are more social being on the streets than those inside. They display more sociability that the young people who are transported to sports clubs or training. They use creativity to make things happen, that can often be regarded as disruptive, but only because there are restrictions enforced in the public space like, No ball games, no skateboarding. Yet most of these rules single out young people specifically. Young people grow up ‘not allowed’ and controlled, so the streets might be a space of freedom and place to provoke and challenge, often they are barely enforcebale. just a statement to provoke and discriminate:    To hide behind a hoodie. To escape being projected on. To create a space where they require power and responsibility within their own chosen group. Sometimes we need to recognise that there is positivity within the space of the streets, that young people might actually benefit from being there. Better to keep them there then, meet them in their space, understand the community they create and recognise the positives it gives them, often contrasting with the rubbish they feel in other areas of their lives.  Moving young people to a building…. nope its not usually what young people want. They want to be free, and free away from them.

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