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TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION............................................................................................... .........................2

WHO ARE CONSIDERED AS HOMELESS AND STREET CHILDREN?...........................2

UNDERSTANDING THE TERMS...................................................................... .......................3

BACKGROUND TO INTERNATIONAL HOMELESSNESS................................................ ..5

EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM......................................................................... ..........................6

BACKGROUND TO KENYA................................................................................................ ......7

STREET CHILDREN SITUATION IN KENYA................................................................................................8

PUSH FACTORS ( LOCAL AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE)....................... .......................10

STREET CHILDREN ACCESS TO SERVICES................................................. ....................11

HEALTH.............................................................................................................................................11
EDUCATION........................................................................................................................................14
SOCIAL CONNECTION..........................................................................................................................15
EXPLOITATION....................................................................................................................................16
EMPLOYABILITY.................................................................................................................................17

GAPS/NEEDS......................................................................................................... ....................17

GOVERNMENT LEVEL:........................................................................................................................18
ORGANIZATION LEVEL........................................................................................................................20
COMMUNITY LEVEL:..........................................................................................................................20

CONCLUSION...................................................................................................... .....................21

REFERENCE LIST.............................................................................................................. ......23


2

Introduction

“Street and working children are a common sight these days in cities

around the world especially in the poorer regions of the south.

Deprived of the joys of a normal childhood and adolescence, many of

them die early in a state of extreme poverty, or from bullets full of

hatred. Those who escape, struggle to survive, roam the streets or

waste away in despair, relieving their suffering by escaping into the

imaginary in an often self-destructive way” (UNESCO, 1995).

Although conditions obviously vary, homeless youth are a growing

presence and represent a sizeable proportion of the adolescents living

in high risk settings of both developed and developing nations of the

world (National Research Council as cited in Hagan & McCarthy, 1997).

They represent one of the most exploited and rapidly growing

minorities and one of the most poignant social challenges.

Who are considered as homeless and street children?

The realities and conditions faced by these children and youth are

dependent on the social, cultural, economic and political situations of a

given country. However there are characteristics that cut across the

board.
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These children have no means of self sufficiency, lack access to

essential services such as education and health care which leads to

deteriorating physical and mental health. They face violence, drug

abuse, sexual exploitation, and disease including HIV/Aids, poorly paid

jobs, loneliness, police harassment and even death. They also face

homelessness, exploitation, abuse, coercion and control by adult

gangs, conflict with law, and lack of identification papers by (West,

2003).

They are too often invisible to mainstream society. They do not fit

easily into molds or categories. They do not show up on the national

census. Just because they are not counted does not mean they do not

count by Hall (as cited in UNESCO, 1995). They comprise of a

population that does not show up in health statistics or in the

education system.

Understanding the Terms

Different terms have been used to describe homeless youth across the

regions. In developing nations the term street children is commonly

used while in the developed nations the term ‘runaways’ or ‘homeless’

children and youth is used.


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Street children are those for whom the street (in the widest sense of

the word, i.e. unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc) more than their

family has become their real home, a situation in which there is no

protection, supervision, or direction from responsible adults by Ennew

(as cited in Panter-Brick, 2002) For save the children fund,’ a street

child is any minor who is without permanent home or adequate

protection. (Panter-Brick, 2002)

In the International health literature, homeless adolescents are often

referred to as ‘street youth’, and further divided into ‘children on the

streets’ and ‘children of the streets’. Children on the streets maintain

family contact and often return home to sleep, but spend most of their

time on the streets either working or having fun. Children of the streets

are youth who live, work, and sleep on the streets (Ensign, 1998). The

term street children was widely adopted by international agencies in

an attempt to avoid negative connotations for children who had been

known as street urchins, vagrants, gamines, rag-pickers, glue sniffers,

street arabs, or vagrants by William(as cited in Panter-Bick 2002)

Rotheram-Borus et.al(1991) defines homeless youths to include

those who have left their homes without a parent's or guardian's

consent (runaways), those who are thrown out of their homes

(throwaways), those who leave problematic social service placements


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(system kids), and those lacking basic shelter (street youths).

According to Oberlander (as sited in Baxter, 1991, p.8) taking

homelessness literally, is talking about a person without a home,

without an address, without personal security, without privacy, a

person continuously on the move, haunted and hunted, hiding from

him/herself and the personal shame that society has attached to them,

or hiding from society as a whole

West (2003) further explains that street children constitute a dynamic

population, shifting as opportunities arise, moving in and out of other

designated categories for children. It is important to keep in mind that

all these terms have been developed and are used by adults working

with or studying the populations of homeless youth and do not reflect

how the youth refer to themselves (Ensign,1998)

Background to International Homelessness

As noted by Glasser & Brigman (1999) homelessness emerged as a

public concern in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s

as Americans began encountering people living on the streets, a way

of life which had formerly been confined to the skid rows of large cities.

By the mid-1980s to early 1990s, the visibly homeless were becoming

a common sight even among those countries with well-developed


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social safety-net programs, such as Canada. Much of the early

discussion of homelessness in industrialized countries centered on the

deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill who were so visible on city

streets.

The last two decades witnessed both more homeless individuals and

the development of a large number of different services, such as soup

kitchens, drop-in centers, and shelters in the majority of North

American metropolises by Baum and Burnes as cited in Karabanow

1998).

Bamurange (as cited in Kilbride, 2000 p.g. 4) argues that Street

children in Africa are a recent development but frequently reflects

patterns of exploitation emanating from colonialism in the early 20th

century. For example in South Africa, all street children are of African

origin with no white children on the streets reflective of South Africa’s

history of racial segregation (Le, Roux in Kilbride, 2000 p. 4) Kenya too

has no Asian or European street children a reflection of racism during

colonialism( Killbride, 2000 p.g.4)

Extent of the Problem

The hidden and isolated nature of street children makes accurate

statistics difficult to gather; however, UNICEF (as cited in UNESCO,


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1995) estimates there are approximately 100 million street children

worldwide with that number constantly growing. There are up to 40

million street children in Latin America. In Brazil alone, 17mil children

and youth work on the streets and seven million live on the street. In

Mexico, an estimated ten million children are working on the streets

and 250,000 are living on the streets. In Ecuador, 100,000 children

work on the streets and 3,000 children live on the streets. In India,

there are at least 18 million and 10million in Africa children on the

street. In Guatemala, 1.45 million children work on the streets in a

country where the total population is about 8 million. In Philippines, 1.2

mil children live and work on the streets while in, Thailand, an

estimated 800,000 girls under the age of 20, work on the streets or in

brothels as prostitutes (U.S Congressional Hearing, 1992, p.g .54).

In the United States, estimates of homeless youth range from 500,000 to 2million by

(Enisgn, 1998) In Canada it is estimated at 15,000 and over in Greater Toronto area alone

by McCrossin (as cited in Fitzgerald M,1998).Many studies have determined that street

children are most often boys aged 10 to 14, with increasingly younger children being

affected. by Amnesty International (as cited in Kanth, 2004)

Background to Kenya

The Republic of Kenya is located in East Africa and has a population of

around 37.9 million people with a 2.78 growth rate (2008 est.), 60% of

this population is below 20 years of age, with 40% unemployment rate.


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50% of the population is estimated to be below poverty line (2000

est.)The life expectancy rate in Kenya is said to be 56.64 years. The

total area is 582,650 sq km (CIA, 2008). Estimates of the Kenyan

literacy rate range between 75 and 85 percent; with the female rate

about 10 points lower than the male. It is estimated that 1.2 million

people are living with HIV/AIDS and 150,000 HIV/AIDS deaths (2003

est.) (CIA, 2008)

Kenya has 8 provinces with Nairobi its capital and largest city. Kenya

has the highest rate of road accidents in the world, with 510 fatal

accidents per 100,000 vehicles (2004 estimate)

Street Children Situation in Kenya

There are an estimated 250,000 children in Kenya living on the streets.

Their lifestyles are characterized by continued marginalization from

basic services and support ranging from proper shelter, education,

health-care, parental care and guidance to nutritional support due to a

multiplicity of socio-economic gaps/problems. Such gaps include

widespread poverty both in rural and urban areas (slum communities),

domestic violence, retrogressive socio-cultural beliefs & practices and

the far reaching negative impact created by the HIV/AIDS pandemic on

various families
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They face innumerable hardships and danger in their daily lives. In

addition to the hazards of living on the street, these children face

harassment and abuse from the police and within the juvenile justice

system for no reason other than the fact that they are street children.

Some children are born and grow-up on the streets.

Most of the affected street children normally succumb to demeaning

ways of living e.g. voluntary/forced engagement in child labor related

activities so as to generate income to support themselves, crime

involvement, forced/opted early girl child marriages in exchange for

money or property, prostitution, begging, rampant abuse of cheaply &

readily available drugs e.g. bhang, glue and cigarettes. In addition to

the same, life in streets for both young boys and girls is known to be

cruel, harsh, traumatizing and uncertain. Many have witnessed and

experienced untold sufferings in the form of rape, sodomy, police

arrests and harassments, hunger and serious physical assaults by both

members of the public and older colleagues in the streets.

Prostitution among adolescents and youth is reaching alarming levels

in Kenya, with one in 10 cases less than 10 years of age involved in sex

work. According to a new report on the sexual exploitation of

adolescents and youth on the Kenyan coast, 30 per cent, or more than
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one in four girls between 12 and 18 years, are selling sex for cash

(UNICEF, 2006).

Push Factors (Local and Global Perspective)

The most frequent explanations given by youth include problems of

incompatibility with family and step family members, disrupted and

dysfunctional families, neglectful parents, coercive and abusive

parents (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), parental rejection and

problems in school that often produced further conflict with parents by

(Hagan & McCarthy 1997). Rejection and stigmatization by family and

community of origin for gay and lesbian identified youth are also

reasons for homelessness (Ensign, 1998)

The world and Africa in particular are witnessing rapid and wide

ranging socioeconomic and political changes. There is rapid

urbanization, run away population growth and increasing disparities in

wealth. The introduction of structural adjustment programmes and

globalization are changing the very fabric of African society. One of the

negative consequences of these changes is the emergence of large

numbers of children on the streets. (Kopoka, 2000)

Poverty is perceived often as a major reason for children going to the

streets. Poverty in turn can be caused by other factors like floods,


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unemployment, loss of land among others (Kopoka, 2000). West,

(1999) explains that along with poverty, economic inequality has been

shown to have a major impact on family health and to exacerbated

family stresses, which are often manifested in domestic violence. Due

to poverty many rural adolescents and youth migrate to urban areas in

search of better opportunities and employment. Most of them end up

living in overcrowded city slums or in the streets.

West (2003) found that many children who are abandoned come from

families affected by HIV/Aids or are HIV positive themselves. The

phenomenon of “Aids Orphans” has brought some children onto the

streets.

Other factors that exacerbate the problem of street children include

discrimination, domestic violence and abuse, drugs and armed conflict.

A case in point is the election violence in Kenya after the 2007 general

election, many children lost their guardians or they were displaced.

Street Children Access to Services

Health

Enisgn (1998) noted that adolescents in general have unique barriers

to access of appropriate health care and exhibit poor patterns of

preventive primary health care. The barriers include confusion over


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legal consent to seek care, office hours that conflict with school, and

discomfort with traditional health care settings. Health status data on

homeless adolescents are limited in both quantity and quality. They

have greater problems with access to health care, including a more

profound lack of insurance/payment sources, anxiety over issues of

confidentiality. Enisgn, (1998) further explains that adolescence are

often overlooked in health care and research because they are

perceived as being healthy, and because they fall between the medical

practice that disciplines of pediatrics that focuses on younger children

and internal medicine that deals with adults.

The risky behavior by street children put them at health risk which

include susceptibility to infectious diseases; vulnerability to HIV/AIDs,

physical and sexual abuse. According to Congressional Hearing

(1992.pg 85) the side effects of regular drug use by street children are

devastating. Industrial glue when inhaled produces light-headedness,

occasional hallucinations, loss of appetite and nausea. The long term

health impacts include lung damage, irreversible brain and kidney

damage, malnourishment and a general weakening of the children’s

health.

In terms of mental health, emotional distress and psychiatric problems

are three times more common among homeless youths than among
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adolescents in general (Robertson et.al as cited in Rotheram-Borus,

Koopmaq & Ehrhardt 1991).

Karabanow et.al (2007) conducted a study on Exploring the health

Experiences of Halifax street children, they found that majority of the

street youth involved in the study suggested that street life enhanced

one’s feeling of stress, anxiety and depression-much of this related to

the continual requirement to meet basic needs of shelter, food and

clothing.

Karabanow et.al (2007) found that there was some form of resistance

by street children to accessing the formal health system, primarily due

to a perceived discomfort and fear that they would not receive the

intended care, or else would receive care in a very unsupportive and

disrespectful manner. Participants voiced that mainstream health

providers lacked an intimate understanding of their situations and

would in turn be judgmental of their life styles.

Street children are seen as “dirty” this makes them not accepted in

health care settings. Homeless youth are more likely to seek medical

attention after they are no longer able to ignore a health problem.

Homeless youth don’t go for community health services for fear of

being stigmatized as homeless.


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The delivery of HIV-related prevention and treatment programs to

homeless youths is especially difficult because of the life stressors,

living situations, and adjustment problem of these youths. For

example, trainers in HIV prevention programs have tried to involve

families in reducing adolescents "HIV-related risk acts (e.g., Winnet,

1991).However, families are typically the sources of the greatest stress

for homeless youths and so cannot be mobilized as supportive

resources. (Rotheram-Borus, Koopmaq, & Ehrhardt, 1991).

Education

In addition to enrollment problems, the high mobility associated with

homelessness has severe educational consequences. Barriers to

success in school were found to include family mobility, poor health,

and lack of food, clothing, and school supplies. (National

Homelessness)

Street children generally lack access to public education services.

Some are unable to go to school because they need to work, because

of discrimination or because of costs. Many street children in Kenya

come to the streets after being forced to leave school by poverty. While

others are “pushed out” (Killbride, 2000)


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In most cases street children cannot access services because they do

not have any form of identification. They are regarded as social drop-

outs. With the introduction of free primary education in Kenya in the

year 2003, It saw the increase in school enrollment which meant that

many children were able to access school but other issues are still

haunting them like school uniform, food and other classroom materials

such as exercise books are still the parent's responsibility (Mushtaq,

2008) And for the country’s poorest those are still a lot of costs to bear

that hinder access to schooling.

Social Connection

Street children are seen as a public nuisance by the general public.

They have no real connections with the public but they do develop

strong connections amongst themselves.

In Kenya Street children are known as chokora, roughly translated from

Kiswahili as pokers at dustbins or garbage heaps in search of food and

other valuables (Killbride et.al, 2000) Kenyan street children are

frequently observed sniffing glue. The “glue bottle” in the public mind

negatively symbolizes what is taken to be in Kenya, the defining

characteristic of street children: that is people who are trouble makers

and a threat to society (Kilbride et.al, 2000)


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A case in point in Kenya is during the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country

Championships held in Kenya, as part of the town clean-up exercise all the street children

that were on the streets were all locked up in cells or mental hospitals only to be released

after the event.

Exploitation

The need for street children to make a living makes them vulnerable to

hazardous and/or exploitative labor situations. Many formal and

informal sectors depend on children as a source of cheap labor. (West,

2003).

There is also an insatiable demand for child sex workers. Children may

be engaged in commercial sex work just to make a living. For the girl

child sexual exploitation is not only by strangers but also by the street

boys and security guards as a form of payment for protection at night.

Rothman (1991) quotes a homeless girl…” the people you meet on the

streets turn out to be pimps, pushers, or pornographers”. “The pimp

supplies include food, clothing, and shelter and then “really make you

feel like you owe him something.” In her book Webber (1947) gives a
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vivid description of the exploitation street children go through at the

hands of the so called, “helpers”.

A case in point of street children exploitation by political leaders in Kenya, the street

children were used to cause havoc and chaos during the 2007 general election violence

and as a result many were killed and some injured.

Employability

Most of the street children are illiterate with no basic skills to help them get proper jobs.

The attitude of the society towards street youth acts as a barrier even to employment.

They are treated with suspicion and seen as thieves.

Gaps/Needs

In recent years, innovative work for street children has been almost the

exclusive

of the private sector: In many of the worst affected countries, notably

Brazil,

NGO projects, executed mostly by religious groups and mostly all

underfunded and

Over-worked, have developed new ways to help street children. Their

programmes are

less expensive, more humane and more affective alternatives to

institutionalization.
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Whether the political will exists to duplicate these innovative programmes is another

matter. (Kopoka, 2000)

It is also important to note that most of the services being provided to

street children focus on curative services and therefore in my review I

focused more on preventive services that could compliment the work

being done to manage the number of children on the streets. The

services being provided include-: resettlement, residential services,

education support, counseling, skills training. The most essential

service that seems to be lacking is detox services to help these

children come out of the addictions. This is mainly because the detox

services are expensive and very few institutions offer that.

Various sectors can substantially contribute to promoting and

safeguarding the welfare of homeless youth. Each sector typically has

distinctive competencies and perspectives which, if employed within a

common framework, are more likely to deal with the multifaceted

nature of homeless youth issues.

Government Level:
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With the number of street children rising on the streets, it creates a

significant law enforcement problem for the country. Therefore there is

need for the government to be more involved and support the efforts

of Non-Government organizations in addressing the issue of street

children. It’s also the role of the government to protect all citizens

which includes the street children.

It’s also important to get the business sector involved with the

oversight of the Government because more often than not the business

sector is the beneficiary of cheap labor provided by street children.

It is the responsibility of the government to develop a system that will

include the street children population to be reflected in the national

census.

There is a need for population control through promotion and

increasing access to family planning services especially for the rural

communities. This will help reverse the population explosion in Kenya.

The Government to develop more employment, recreational and

participation opportunities to channel youth’s energy in positive

directions and enhance their ability to make contribution towards

nation building.
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Organization Level:

There is need for greater commitment by organizations dealing with

street children to strengthen networking with other organizations

involved in providing services to street children. This includes

improving communication, being less competitive about funding and

sharing all the available resources. Services need to be Linked together

to provide a more holistic approach.

Programs designed for helping youth living in the streets should be

flexible enough to accommodate their individual needs rather than

conducting a blanket intervention that gives no room to meet

individual needs.

Organizations to provide youth friendly services especially in health

centers by ensuring staff that are trained in providing services to

children and youth.

Community Level:

Teachers: They have daily contact with children and interact with many

parents. They should be able to identify emerging problems before


21

they become critical, to communicate with parents and to assist in

referring families to professionals.

Family outreach programs: available to families to help cope with

issues at the family level for example in communication, decision

making, self esteem and parental control.

To address the attitude of the society towards street children there is

need to highlight the success stories, of how street children can be

reformed.

Personal Level.

I guess the hardest part of this paper was the section on what this

means to me and my role. Through my reflection I have realized there

is room for me to improve especially as far as my attitude is

concerned. I remember Dr Fitzgerald talking about measuring these

children’s success not by our standards but by their standards. There

are times that I have worked not because I see what these children

could be and the potential they have but to justify my pay check at the

end of the month.

Conclusion
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Street kids and other imperiled 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.(

Webber, 1991) In his article, Fitzgerald, 1995 states that to counter the

effects of their troubled backgrounds these youths require immediate

and ongoing care and support to help rebuild attachments to others,

invest in their own well being and development, acquire the necessary

skills, attitudes, and resources to increasingly and effectively assume

their place in society.

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