Youth Support Library

Keynote Address - Chaired by Diana Birch

Runaway and Homeless Youth.  Richard Brown.

D.B. - I am very pleased that for the last keynote of this conference we have Richard Brown from San Francisco, some people talk about leaving the best till last in fact last time we had the conference here Dick MacKenzie did the final keynote and he said that he’d never heard of the keynotes being at the end of a session, they are always at the beginning, but he understood why I put it at the end because since he had  jet lag he was just beginning to wake up then, so hopefully Dick Brown is waking up now, not that he appeared to sleep through the conference I must add. But most of you probably already know Richard Brown so I don’t need to give a big introduction but he is Professor in Adolescent Medicine in California in San Francisco and he has done a lot of work of homeless and runaway youth not only in San Francisco area but also really throughout the world and particularly in Brazil, South America, and also in India. So it’s really appropriate that he should be at this conference and he has asked that some of the people from different parts of the world who are also involved with homeless and runaway youth should join us on the podium here so that they can be involved. So I’d like to ask for Andrei Smirnov (Russia); Irene Adams (Brazil); Pamela McNeil (Jamaica); Dick MacKenzie (Los Angeles)

Richard Brown.   Good afternoon. I would like to start by thanking Diana for this remarkable effort, and I had a wonderful time here getting to know so many people and sharing in so many exciting topics, this is very important time. Diana, thank you for this opportunity. I also feel a great deal of responsibility talking about this topic, there are so many colleagues of mine who are here and know more or as much about homeless youth, but this is an area that I’ve been student of throughout a good part of my career, so I am going to go over some of the basic issues regarding runaway and homeless youth.

At the HIV International Conference, the AIDS Conference in San Francisco at the beginning of the 90s we had a conference on homeless and runaway youth and at that meeting it was decided that instead of talking about ‘high risk youth’ - for the safety of young people politically and all that we would talk about youth in high risk situations. So often they are victims of the circumstances of where they are and they are not a cause of what’s happening with their life but they respond to the results of the situations that they find themselves in, so the term that we’ve come to use is youth in high risk situations because it avoids a particular kind of stigmatisation.

There are a variety of high risk situations that young people find themselves in anyway normally in life. Adolescence itself, that has been very nicely articulated here in the research, but adolescence itself, issues of structure and freedom, psycho-sexual care, the normal life issues put youth at risk. Family stresses that we’ve discussed here, peer relations, gang interaction that’s become so prominent in any of our cities throughout the world, environmental and economic stresses and one of the things I will be emphasising is the whole issue of an economic base as part of the intervention that we do with youth in association with in-societal and cultural stresses. To begin I am going to emphasise some of the work that’s been done in the United States and then I want to talk more in global terms and then to give some illustrations of things that are being done that are quite exciting.

Some definitions - Runaway youth in the United States refers to the young people under the 18 years of age that are away from home at least overnight without parental permission, And those of us involved with run away youth find that it is rather an inappropriate definition in that for most of the time young people that run away are trying to escape from an untenable and difficult circumstance in their life, so of course without parental permission and that seems kind of a ridiculous terminology. In general in the United States young people run away within about 15-mile radius of their home in Los Angeles and San Francisco and also in New York for the most, they stay within their community. Young people can also go father, and there is on the West coast a sort of transition, a transit road all the way from Vancouver all the way down to San Diego and I remember one of our fellows who saw streetwise that was based in Seattle recognised some of the young people that she had cared for in San Francisco, so there is this mobility up and down the West coast. The estimates about the numbers of people that run away and all varies a great deal, it may be some say as high as 2 million, it may be 1 million, it’s not really clear, it’s hard to count the numbers.

The prominent motivation for  running away is something to have to do with the parents in 65% of the young people and many of them come from homes where both parents are not in the home. In terms of sex distribution the count is equal in number though more young women are in shelters and young men tend to travel further from home.

Throwaway youth is another term that reflects really the rejection of young people, they are really rejected from the home. An illustration of that is Arthur in San Francisco whose story was that he had come to San Francisco from the mid-west, he basically was rejected, he came out as a gay youth and was thrown out of the home, he came to San Francisco, and when he arrived he called his family to say that he had safely arrived in San Francisco and he said, this is Arthur and the father said, there is no Arthur in this family, we  have no son  and hung up.

Risk factors, young people are very much at risk in terms of engaging in a variety of sexual activities and sexual intercourse, I’ll come back to this again later. There is a history of physical and sexual abuse very commonly, as much as 60 to 75% of young runaway youth have had serious physical abuse and it’s even sometimes seen as higher with young women. Teenage pregnancy is significant in this population. Substance abuse as well, particularly alcoholism, young people in this situation are often in a co-alcoholic family situation where one of the parents may be an alcoholic and they are gnashed with the whole structure of that family and act out in part of it what’s happening with the family and they need to escape from that.

I also want to define homeless youth and this is a major topic when we look at the international level. These are young people who lack any parental, foster care, institutional care, some of them have gone through the system: been rejected from their family, have been in foster care for some time and been in the juvenile court institutions and finally really flunk out from the whole thing and end up being on the streets ultimately. I am reminded in Rio of going to the institution outside of Rio where young people deal with gangs, deal with drugs in the street, are arrested, brought in to the centre and then episodically when I was there the gang would go in and at gun point and retrieve the young people back out onto the streets.

And then system youth. These are young people who are in the custody of the state, really grow up within the system and are really eventually are on the own after they go through a series of placements, institutional care.

I just want to mention the issue of secrets, that young people at high risk situations bring secrets into relationships with us, I think we’ve talked about many of these here in quite a lot of care. A co-alcoholism and alcoholism is a very secret area, I find it one of the most difficult things to identify in working with young people. And sexual identity issues is another that needs care in terms of being able to ellicit in young people. Tremendous instability in the family, migration, separation and loss, the abuse and neglect, violence in the community, at home, gang violence and others, these are some of the secrets that young people bring that come to challenge us to draw out and to clarify.

Health issues are enormous for young people all over the world and the United States. Sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, pregnancy and premature death and homicide and suicide. And then in many countries there are immigrants and undocumented young people there that are significant part of the population, so that’s an overview of the definitions that I wanted to cover between runaway, homeless, system youth. Where I have been a student is in Brazil and I had a very good fortune of being able to go to Rio and I’ve learned a lot about what happens in this beautiful city regarding homeless young people. This is Bodafogul bay and Christo and Corfado there, beautiful area I show this slide because of the beautiful lakes along, the streets there and beautiful hotels but dark in the background are the favellas where there is very little electricity and that’s where millions of people reside and this is basically sort of gang run and very impoverished area. So the reverse of San Francisco high up in the hills of San Francisco the real estate goes up it just the opposite Rio and this is hard to see but it is the beginning of the favellas that are contiguous with the very high hotels along Copa Cabana, Ipanema and just in the back is the beginning of the favellas. So this is a very dangerous area in terms of intersection of the two and this is up in the favellas (slums).

So I want to talk about street youth. Street youth are young people who reside primarily in the streets in their life, they may be runaways, they may be homeless, they may actually connect with home and bring money back home but not stay there all the time, in and out, often they are connected somehow with home and they may be throwaway young people who are able to adapt and are able to really fend for themselves in the streets and I’ll describe some of the ways that they are able to survive there. The estimation in the world are staggering in terms of the number of children and youth that really call the streets their home - 100 million. So these street children are young people who are in the streets either full or part time and the ranges estimates are all across board from a 30 million to a 170 million in the world. So that’s quite a spectrum of estimate. The Children’s Defence Council gives these estimates of 60 million - there are 23 million in Brazil alone.

UNICEF has divided street youth into 2 categories: one is children on the streets who are there much of the day, they aren’t going to school, they return home at night with their families and this is actually the majority of young people are in this category where they basically just live there on the streets during the day. The other second category is youth that are on the streets where they really reside, they work, they live there, they sleep and they have little or no ties to the family. And example of this is Brazil the result of the economic impoverishment in the north east in Bahia, in Recifi, up in there where there’s been really some desertification of the country and rural poverty has forced young people in mass to migrate down into the big cities particularly to Rio and that’s my experience. But this Bob Blum has also illustrated is a massive phenomenon throughout the world in most of the mega cities of the world a massive migration of young people into cities and that also happens in San Francisco and other places that show us statistics that Bob illustrated - there is a tremendous number of young people proportionally in the world and they concentrate in the large cities. Now a common thing is the tremendous poverty of families and one of the questions was why young children in Rio in the favellas couldn’t go to school, they didn’t have the money for the uniform, so it’s as basic as that.

So Juao is a young fellow in Rio who lives way out in the country and on weekends he jumps on the trains and he comes into Rio and actually lives there during the week and he is very proud that he can, he is really good at pick-pocketing, he has some marginalised jobs resells things, he is very proud of what he can do and survive and he does so well in the week that he actually brings money and food and things back to his family later in the week or every couple of weeks. So he is really the breadwinner, the family is so impoverished that he cannot really stay at home but he can come in and in marginal kind of often illegal activity he can survive. He goes to the Cathedral in Rio, the beautiful Cathedral where they feed young people and conjures extra stuff, extra apples and things and then he actually can take that back to his family and his family expects this and sometimes he is even beaten if he does not bring back what he is supposed to bring. So street youth generally are working, they are very industrious, extremely creative and highly energetic. They are often like those young men you saw before are very tiny, they are quite malnourished they are much smaller than they appear but they have casual work, marginal occupations, informal sector, these are some of the terms that are used, they are kind of ridiculous terms, but many times they are out there in petty retail thing, they are pick-pocketing and stealing and very successful and proud of what that they do among other activities. So they resort to illegal activities and one of the activities throughout the world is in the sex area. So they are very vulnerable to exploitation because there isn’t some sort of structural support, they are easily victimised and are involved with prostitution, drug-dealing, physical abuse and often hooked into this whole system.

There are financial implications of 10 million children under 17 who are regularly engaged in sex for money in the world. And this is distributed in many countries, it’s especially prominent in Asia where a sex industry is a major industry. A few of us were planning to try to have a condom conference in Bangkok at one point and it was moving along quite well and we had Phil Donny from the University in California and had some people from Durex and suddenly it ended. And supposition was that there was some kind of threat to this major economy that resulted in discontinuation of  the planning.

According to the International Labour Organisation about 90 million children between the ages of 11 and 15 serve  in the world’s working force. And this frankly is a very complex, difficult thing for many of us to look at because so often children in this situation are really major money earners in marginal societies and without their nimble fingers and hands the family is in dire poverty and so it’s humbling to think that we might think they should be in school but in many circumstances this is very far impossible and it is really a concerning conflict for us. In Pakistan there are 7 million children involved with really kind like slavery in brick kilns and carpet factories.

Probably a most sobering reality for those of you that are connected with Africa is the tragic thing that’s happening there. June Grady who is one of our neonatologists works in Africa and is a Professor in a couple of the universities and she came back showing pictures of families and the family was a little 12-year old young woman and 2 little children holding their hand, this was the family. Parents have both died of AIDS and this unfortunately is not untypical in Africa, it really is a terrifying reality and it is escalating. Uganda statistics are that right now in Africa 10 million orphans are happening at this time. So AIDS is taking a massive toll in Africa also increasingly in India and so many countries.

We have talked about addicted youth and drug dependency it is a prominent issue when the young people are trying to deal with overwhelming emotions and the issue of sexual disinhibition, where sexual maters are concerned, using drugs puts it in an increased risk bracket. One thing that I haven’t studied very well but is very real and I don’t even like to think much about is really the murder of children in various countries and this was very much happening when we were in Rio where young people who were stealing in Rio actually being executed.

So I’ve given some of the overview about the enormity of the issues through the world, I want to go on and I also want the panel later to participate in it to look at some other possible ways of recognising and working with youth who are homeless and are runaways. Herb Friedman I think is then an inspiration to many of us, he’s been here for a part of the meeting, one of his philosophies that had a major impact on some of us is his philosophy that the work needs to be generated from young people, it needs to come from their energy, it needs to come from their awareness, it needs to come from a non-medical context, it needs to come from a place in which we are going to impose something that probably is untenable to the young person, they need to create their stories and his research has been that of going to various countries in the past and actually having young people generate the tales, the legends that they want about young people and about dealing with things, that’s been very inspiring,

Let us look at a product of that philosophy which is from Bombay. A colleague of mine in San Francisco works with homeless youth in Bombay and he went there and received the stories generated by the legend which were made up I cartoon form from the stories generated by the young people. The youth tell the story, so I want to go through the sequence and remind you that this is generated from the young people. So let’s call this young fellow here Sam, he is our main hero here, and a street-wise young fellow is another character and in the bottom there is a street worker, a social worker, so that’s our main characters that they generated. They each call them different names, one maybe Mohammed at one time or whatever but this is the characters. It begins with Sam, he is in the country, in India, this is his context but he wants to go on and like so many young people in the world they move towards the big city. So what pictures were generated from the young people in homeless project in Bombay. Sam goes on a train, he hops a trains and he heads then for Bombay and then for the first time, looking at this big city and kind of overwhelmed by it all and then he is on the street and this is enormously complicated he gets beaten and stepped on and kicked around and he is hungry and he is suffering and can’t find a place to sleep in, he is just flabbergasted, his mouth is open. He meets our friend which is a street-wise kid and he’s happy to find somebody that he knows and there are all kinds of possibilities that this young man tells him, you know, you can smoke marihuana, you can get a job, you can do shoe-shining, you can have a lot of fun, it’s just great thing on the streets.

As matter of fact a pause here, the reality is that the streets are very seductive. Young people get a lot of goodies in the streets. I mean there is often peer groups, there is drugs, there is sex, there is freedom, there is no school and it is a very addicting phenomenon, so many programmes try to grab kids as soon as they come out onto the streets and get them into a programme. We just need not to forget that. And so they get beaten up by a gang, street-wise kids are furious and little Sam here is crying, he is just overwhelmed. They sniff glue, they steal stuff and around the corner here look who is coming around the corner on the left there and here is the street worker, the social worker who meets the kids on the streets and meets Sam, there is Sam just thinking there are possibilities here for him. And he goes into the shelter, he is sick, he is tired, he maybe withdrawing from drugs, but he meets also a friend who is in the programme there, but our other street-wise low guy, he is just not doing well, he is still on the streets, he is sick and he is in trouble and he is banged around  and he is trying to steal, he is trying to survive and Sam is saying, you know, wishing God try to help you. So he has his friend and they have a good time together and street-wise little guy is not making it, rejects the intervention and dies.

There is an issue here for many young people that they don’t have any real control in terms of what their life is , it’s a script that you walk through and everything is sort of inevitable and there is not concept of planning, but even in India there is a philosophy and that for the most part things are going to happen as they will, but it’s true even with kids here in the United States that they don’t see that they can intercede in their life that they can prevent something, that they can plan things, that it’s just kind of hand and mouth destiny and they are powerless and they cannot have any intervention, so a major task for us all is to see that that’s not necessary, but a tool that these young people generated here is they believed in that kind of idea but they are powerless through life, and yet you can go up a certain way and make decisions along the path, and this is different from their point of view than the idea of preventing and intervening as such and so there are different options.

So this is an idea that they generated in order to see that there are different ways to go. One of the major efforts in so many programmes is interventions that are really based on ground roots economic development and it is found that a really very marginal economic support for young people stabilises families, stabilises young people and is a phenomenally important issue in the world probably reflecting the future health in the world. When people are economically totally marginalised there is trouble, there is war and there is strife, and we’ve seen that over and over again. I think that for homeless young people on the street they need to have, they must have some kind of economic base so I’ll come back to that.

How can you plan programming with outreach activities is something that many people now are doing in various street organisations and I know people here on this panel are very committed to this kind of thing, they are there in the community where the young people are and they are going out into the streets, in San Francisco with the Street Programme at night people put on jackets, they go out into the night with supplies, they do condom distribution, they do counselling, they try to get the young people in, they try to identify young people who are at risk, try to get them in to the programme, they are really out there in the community and it is necessary to be done. it’s risky and for example the night I went out with the people from Lorkan Street we got stones thrown at us and such and we got a little too far into the drug dealing part of the Street, we went down there and it was not exactly the right place to be.

The more comprehensive collaborative wrap-around services is absolutely necessary. The medical model does not work, this is a real shocker for me that we can’t just go out there and set up a little clinic and make everything, it has to be more broad-based. They do need  medical services and there do need to be medical clinics. In Rio they actually have hired a lawyer who is out there in the streets and one of the nights I was out in the streets I actually called the lawyer because there was a young woman in labour and she was taken physically by the lawyer into the hospital to make sure that she was brought in and that she could deliver her baby in hospital, she was in early labour. And it was required at that level of advocacy physically taking her there. So that’s part of that comprehensive kind of wrap-around approach that’s very impressive.

Karate Kids is something from Street Kids International some of you maybe familiar with, it’s another one of the film strips that’s used on the streets, it’s a HIV prevention sequence and it again it’s something that draws out a discussion. And these tools actually are brought right out into little street areas - a video might be set up or a slide show and people draw around and then a discussion is generated right on the street.

Another thing that is necessary is that street youth themselves can be selected out and trained to become street educators and so there are various of what we call entrepreneurial kinds of interests in various countries of really helping people within the city learn how to advocate and work with other young people and so  it is internally generated advocacy that occurs. The language is right, the cultural issues then are right, the words, the modelling, the whole peer cultural thing that many of you are involved with anyway, so this is not any surprise I think.

I want to mention a little bit about a medical care issue. And I know that the panel here is very much, Irene here is really outstanding illustration of developing good health care for young people. Again it starts with a multi-disciplinary team, it is not just medical care, it requires peer help educators and street workers. It needs to be a group that’s really sensitive to the diversity of the community particularly around sexual minorities issues, national minorities issues and sexual abuse, it needs to be specially selected and people need to be trained to be sensitive in these areas. And then there needs to be central locations, convenient hours which often are at 9 o’clock at night or in the evening and right out in the streets. Condom distribution is a major area of safety for the young people and where that is possible, many countries really don’t have the resources for much of anything, I know that in several countries there is really not a resource for that, an example though is the Ashoka fellow, the Ashoka Foundation does social entrepreneurial work in India where a young woman is developed giving the condoms to the young women who are along the high way, the major means of transportation of industry in India is trucks so there are a lot of truck driven and along the way there are prostitution villages, whole villages that are basically prostitutes and this is really a hotbed then for spread of STD’s and STIs I should say, I am learning here as well, and AIDS and there is an effort  which I think somewhat feeble, but there is an effort to try to do condom distribution and education in this area.

So I mentioned social entrepreneurial projects and there are some outstanding illustrations of this in the world. I think one of them that I told you about was Jim Lease work in Bombay, but it is an area is that somewhat a frontier of helping with developing a basic economic base. Butterflies in Delhi is a project for young homeless people with the development of a restaurant and food distribution and the way of giving quite a large number of young people an occupation to be involved  with and to be off of the streets and to have some sense of decency and respect. In San Francisco we’ve had a Ben & Jerry’s franchise to open up Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream parlours that are basically run by homeless and marginalised young people. In the other example, and some people on the panel maybe able to describe other areas of developing a social entrepreneurial effort. So that actually is a summary, I wanted to make sure that we have some that panel also could be available and respond. I want next to read a poem of which I have copies here for you since it’s such an overwhelming area of concern I wanted to end with some brightness and this is a gift for you if you’d like this poem, I use it a lot to describe issues of adolescents, I want to read it to you:

I am growing world,

I am reaching and touching, stretching and testing

I am finding new things, new wonderful things,

New frightening things,

I’m just growing world, just now.

I am not tall, I am not strong, I am not right,

I am just trying to be.

I am a person, I’m me,

Let me test, let me try, let me reach, let me fly,

Push me out of nest,   (but not too fast.)

There is much I don’t know.

There are things that I want,

Don’t hide me from the sight of the world.

Give me room, give me time,

There are things I am not frightened to try.

Let me tumble and spring,

Let me go, let me be,

  …Wait and see.

I am growing world,

Water me with the wisdom of your tears.

Written by a woman 16 years old

I just want to review the poem again and I think, I just really like this kind of thing which is expressing something about the soul of young people. And this is a poem that really does if you analyse it illustrate a lot of the basic issues, the grandiosity in certain ways, the humility, the ambivalence, the scariness, the wonderfulness of the time, the assertion of selfness that is often not clear, I am a person - that is very adolescent thing they are needing to say, of needing to test limits, of needing sort of structure, Push me out of nest, but not too fast, I need freedom and I need control, sense of humility, of daring, of messing up and being able to survive is something that we all do with young people, help the young people not be damaged by a tumble. And a sense of hope and a sort of tragic ending, a formal operation ending, water me with the wisdom of your tears, sort of joining in in the whole of human family. SO you are welcome to take copies of the poem. And this is written by a young woman in Lorkan Street Programme.

I know there is a paradise yet to be held by my open arms,

I know one day I’ll see a rainbow with harmony over everyone’s head,

And I will be free at last.

Thank you very much.


D.B.   I think that using poetry like that such a wonderful way to express because young people do find it difficult to communicate with us and certainly we use other media like arts and poetry and story-telling a great deal in our work and especially I think that street youth who often not had a lot of education or that because of their circumstances also had difficulties in communication, I think it’s great that we can see their poetry like that and actually get into their feelings.


I am Dick MacKenzie, I am from Los Angeles, California, we have an active homeless and high risk youth programme in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. We began our programme in 1982 and partly the stimulus behind our programme was: one, we were ignorant of what street youth were all about and two, we had a feeling that street youth can teach us a lot about life and adolescence. And with this programme we have evolved a number of what was referred to as warp-around services what I like to call “a seamless system of care”. If there is one thing that high risk, at risk or runaway or homeless youth do not tolerate that’s seams, that spaces between agencies that they just cannot seem to hop across and so we’ve created a seamless system of care in which entry into one door of the system puts you through all doors of the system. And we’ve sort of taken some of the ideas that Richard has talked about and tried to put them into practice, sometimes with success and sometimes with not so much success.

I am Pam McNeil from the Women’s Centre of Jamaican Foundation and although our main programme as I explained this afternoon is the programme for adolescents mothers, continuing education for adolescents mothers we have centres across the island of Jamaica, we noticed that an for adolescent mother comes in for her instruction from 9 in the morning to say till 2 in the afternoon and after that the centres were empty with all the teaching equipment and everything there and we saw the problem of the street children and we decided to open up the centres particularly in the rural areas to the rural street youth and that programme runs from 3 to 6 every afternoon and from 9 to 12 on a Saturday morning. And it’s very successful. What we are doing there, yes remedial work and trying to get them interested back into education but we are also making education a bit different, as art and drama and football and everything else that the youth might like. In Kingston we do another programme and we work with other agencies as the last speaker was talking about, we work with the YMCA who do the academic instruction for the street children and they come to us for counselling and to our medical clinic for assistance and we also work with our government agency called LEYP, which is Learning and Education for Young People. And they can go there and they can get a bed and a hot meal and trade if they wanted. And we find work this is very very productive because we all doing different things , we are not duplicating one another but we are getting the children in from the streets. They are captive, they can go back if they wish, but we are finding more and more coming to be with us.

I am Irene Adams from Brazil, Belrizonte Brazil, not Rio or San Paolo, and I am from the clinic AMORE which is a medical attendance for street children but the intention of clinic is not provide medical attention, it’s to use my access to them, which happens to be the fact that I am a doctor for providing education for life, life skills and in addition to the direct medical attendance which is delivered in educational way we have education where we work with educators of 34 other projects and with the children themselves involved in this project with the intention of creating within each project a nucleus of capacity people who are comfortable talking about sexuality, drugs, families and all these very emotional things that all of us have to deal with and they are very difficult to deal with when you are an adolescent. I met Richard when he organised the first international meeting of street children in San Francisco in ’81 as he said attached to the HIV Congress, the World AIDS Congress that was held that year. And I think it’s important to point out I always have to ask apologies, I have to ask forgiveness eternally the rest of my life that I took ADIS to show me these children, you know, that here were these children, they were there all the time and we never looked at them we never thought about them, it never occurred to us and then suddenly somebody said, Oh, they might be at risk of AIDS and I think the first thing they taught me was that  AIDS is the least of their worries. And we can learn so much, and as you said I could see that I am a student of street children since 1986.

I am Andrei Smirnov from Russia, I am a paediatrician and I am the Vice- President of a very new born independent charity Family Therapy Development Fund. I am here with my colleagues and friends. Although our Foundation is quite young, only one year, me and my friends have been working in paediatrics and psychiatry 15 to 18 years. We are dealing with the problems of the families, with the problems of adolescents and our dream is to make the things which our educational, medical services officials cannot do or more often do not want to do. And our dream also is to establish a family centre which is open for every family, for every adolescent, for every adult, for every child and baby, man and woman who need the help there in our country. We try to do it.

Question - How the street children perceive themselves what terminology that they use, is it the same as us and do they call themselves street children?

A:  Dick Brown - It’s a good question, I don’t know all the answers in different places, I know that in Brazil it’s “maninos de rua” and it’s a very organised structure by the young people, actually the young people organised that with that name and posters and all, so I do think that in that country they do very much identify with that terminology that it’s sort of a political stance, I think in terms of that term, but it’s a good question, I don’t know how it is in other places.

Irene Adams: I can tell you that in Brazil until 1980 the expression used was abandoned youth and that was the ignorance of those dealing with them, they simply saw them on the street, the police rounded them, up took them to juvenile centre and assumed they were abandoned. And from 1980 onward there was a movement to try to do an alternative approach and to try and really sort the thing out because everyone realised this model was not working and then you had creation of outreach workers, street workers and then we discovered that almost all of them had families that they were not abandoned. And as he rightly points out there is even a national street youth movement, so they have no difficulty with that, but at least in Belrizonte we have adopted a new term because the theory is that no that they accept it by it may stigmatise them to say, I am a street youth or I was a street youth, or this is an ex-street youth, please hire this ex-street use. So we now use the expression “meninos contragitore de rua”, children who have had a passage through the streets to emphasise semantologically that this is not a quality of the child, this was a time in his life.

Dick MacKenzie: I think your question is an excellent one because we have to be very careful as to what we call young people, as to how they experience their time at that period of their life. For instance, a lot of adolescents do not even know what an adolescent is, they don’t call each other, Oh, here’s my fellow adolescent. They don’t understand our terminology and kids on the street are kids on the street and when you, we have a fairly extensive research programme that goes along with the clinical programme and one of the simple obvious facts that we learned through one of our projects is that kids on the street are not a homogeneous group. They have different belief systems, they have different affiliations, they have different social circles and so when you design a programme for what we call street youth, we say, which group of the street youth you are designing your programme for? Because just to develop a programme and make that the panacea to prevent AIDS in the streets or to access services by streets you are only going to hit one part if any of them if you don’t take into account various aspects and the same thing when we look at young people themselves, each one is an individual within himself and we must take that into our understanding so that we can relate to them as individuals rather than as groups.

Pamela McNeil: We don’t call our programmes “programmes for street children”, we call them “activity programmes for children”. And they are children 9 years old to 14-15. And that they are very independent and old for their years and that they can teach us a lot is very true. But also they are very scared, when we told them about the LEYP project in Kingston for example, they definitely shied away from that, and one little one came up to one of my counsellors and said, Well, Miss, if you will come with me I will go. So she said, Fine. So what she did was take them to LEYP for just an hour for one  day, and they saw everything and  they had a meal, in her car and then she brought them back. And this went on for a few days until they got used to the idea of going and they liked it and they liked what they saw. But I want to emphasise that they are children and they need a lot of our love and care and understanding. They may seem to be street-wise and they may seem to know a lot more than us, but they really need us as almost as surrogate parents.

D.B. One last comment to sum up.

Dick Brown: I am just grateful to all these people here today and all  and they are my teachers, half of them I know well and also Diana you are very centrally committed to this kind of work and I congratulate you and what you’ve created here in London, and great pleasure to be able to be here, thank you.


Closing   Diana Birch

Thank you. If you just bear with me for a few moments more. It really happy and sad occasion all at once, really, to have to do a closing to this conference because it’s just been so exciting and so many people came and I really don’t want to see you all go and I am really terribly grateful to everybody who has come here, I think we’ve learnt an awful lot, in fact we’ve learnt so much and so many different things that it makes it impossible to really sum up in any way at all the academic side of it. So I will keep my remarks to thanks and also thinking what we can do together is the future. Somebody asked me yesterday when I am going to do the next conference and I must say I am not sure except the fact that we have got one planned in Italy in April ’99 as I mentioned to do with traumatic stress, but I think when we do the next conference and what we do next is very much dependent on all, for you to come up with your ideas and what you want. We tried to do a slightly different format this time from the last time, last time we had 2 parallel sessions sort of plenary session like this and we didn’t have workshop sessions, we just had lunch discussions and this time we thought, well, let’s put in some workshop sessions at the same time. When people were booking they were sort of anti that, well, why, you know, why do we have to choose, we want to go to all of that, I think it is a matter that we are adults, supposedly, so we do have to make choices, but I think it actually seems to have worked out OK and people have liked the sessions that they have gone to and it will all eventually be written up, I mean it’s going to be a bit of a gargantuous task this time I mean doing to for one day took long enough, but doing all this is going to take a while, so actually get it written, but I will do it, I promise, as soon as I can, and then you can all buy the proceedings. But I would welcome ideas for future conferences and I think actually London is very well placed for international conferences because you can come from all over the place to here, we are pretty central. Depends how you print the atlas, really. But I do want to thank very much all the participants that have come and of course the audience is really important in this situations, I’ve thanked the speakers, but I think without an audience we’d look pretty silly. But there are so many speakers that I can’t thank you all individually, so I think you bear with me. We actually had more than 70 speakers altogether. A lot of people actually wrote and said they wanted to come but there were some people who were actually invited and I am very grateful to the people who have come from a long way at their own expense for this, because you know we are a poor organisation and we cannot afford to fund people to come so I am really really grateful. So I hope that none will feel left out, I have a few little gifts for our friends who have come from overseas and who have been our main speakers and you know, I just apologise that I can’t give a present to everybody, I wish I could. But you all have my warm good will.    Thank you all very much for coming and good-bye.