Children that are homeless, and that have to look for themselves are called street children. They may have run away, or they may have no relatives who look after them.
Looking at it more closely, there are two different concepts:
- Children on the street: They spend most of the day on the street, because they have to work. They sleep at home.
- Street children in the proper sense: The center of the lives of these children is on the street. They also sleep there (because they have nowhere else to go).
According to the European Federation for Street Children, they are an extremely vulnerable group living in very difficult conditions. The human rights of many of these children are often violated: They are exposed to violence or sexual exploitation and abuse. They may be addicted to drugs.
Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) says that the state recognises the right of every child to a standard of living that is adequate for the development of the child.
“State parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social
development.” Homelessness denies each one of those rights. According to an Inter-NGO Program on street children and youth, a street child is “any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street (in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, directed, and supervised by responsible adults.”
Children who have no home but the streets, and no family support. They move from place to place, living in shelters and abandoned buildings.
- ‘Child on the street': children who visit their families regularly and might even return every night to sleep at home, but spends most days and some nights on the street because of poverty, overcrowding, child sexual abuse or physical abuse at home.
- Part of a street family: these children live on sidewalks or city squares with the rest of their families. They may be displaced due to poverty, wars, or natural disasters. The families often live a nomadic life, carrying their possessions with them. Children in this case often work on the streets with other members of their families.
In institutionalized care: children in this situation come from a situation of homelessness and are at risk of returning to a life on the street or facing at the child labour or child prostitution.