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Drawing on ethnographic data from a study on homeless youth, this article examines the relationship between young people and their families through the concept of social capital. The author argues that the lack of family as a source of social capital for homeless youth is a central factor that contributes to young people's homelessness. It presents evidence that shows that the families of homeless youth do not provide a source of social capital and this leads to young people exploring other options of support that lead to and reinforce their homelessness. Yet, many young people who have experienced homelessness have a resilient connection to their family. I propose that for a relationship, in this instance ‘the family’, to constitute social capital they need to fulfil three components that constitute social capital: (1) contact with a group of people (or a person) considered family, (2) this family must have access to valued resources (such as to economic, cultural and/or social capital) and (3) have shared norms of trust and reciprocity. Considering these three components provide insights into the diverse factors that lead a young person to homelessness and have implications for policy and practice.


Institute of Child Protection Studies

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Journal Article

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