In an earlier blog post I shared with you an overview of everything that the A Way Home Canada coalition has accomplished to date and a few highlights of what was coming down the line, including the recently released Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit and the Youth Rights, Right Now! Ending Youth Homelessness: A Human Rights Guide. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, a founding member of A Way Home, also released the Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness. All of these resources are based on months of consultation with youth with lived experience, service providers, researchers, policy makers, and planners (and a few lawyers for good measure). We see this resource trio as essential for crafting and implementing strategies to end youth homelessness.

Community plans alone will not prevent and end youth homelessness. So what else do we need to do, and where will A Way Home focus our efforts in the coming months? First of all, we need to continue building out our “toolbox” so we can hit this complex social issue from every possible angle. For example, not everyone is swayed to act by the moral argument concerning youth homelessness. Some ask instead for the economic argument for why we should invest in prevention. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home are currently scoping out a cost benefit study which will answer these important questions: What would it cost to make a young person’s experience of homelessness their last? Conversely, what would it cost if we did nothing? This study along with the results of our first ever national survey on youth homelessness, Leaving Home (coming this fall) will give us compelling arguments for all levels of government and the public for where and how we should prioritize and invest.

Earlier this year in collaboration with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness we released a Federal Policy Brief and one specific to Ontario. A good part of the work of A Way Home is harnessing the coalition’s collective voice to make strategic recommendations to government. Along these lines we are currently developing youth homelessness-specific recommendations to inform the development of the National Housing Strategy. We will release these recommendations in the fall. More information on the government’s consultation process can be found here.

A more recent development is A Way Home’s lead partner role in the Canadian arm of the Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (SI Lab). This is an international initiative led by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. The work of our Social Innovation Laboratory is to identify and imagine policy and practice innovations that have a high potential of contributing to effective solutions that will tip systems in positive directions.  The Canadian Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Laboratory brings together leading minds with an agenda of identifying and nurturing innovation, and enabling funders, governments, communities, and service providers to adapt and implement social innovations in order to more effectively respond to, and eventually end, youth homelessness.  Moreover, the work of the SI Lab will be further enhanced through participation in the COH-led International Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Network. This network will link thought leaders from around the world with a similar agenda of identifying and mobilizing innovative and effective approaches to ending youth homelessness.

One concrete example of the work of the Social Innovation Lab is Housing First for Youth. Since the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness developed the Housing First for Youth Framework in collaboration with the Hamilton Street Youth Planning Collaborative and the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness (hosted by A Way Home), the model has gained traction internationally. Our next step is to work with international partners to refine the model, develop a comprehensive toolkit complete with fidelity testing, and then to document and share examples of Housing First for Youth in action around the world. A Way Home’s role will be to ensure Canadian examples are highlighted and that we support at both the policy and practice levels the growth of this important model. A good portion of the work of the SI Lab will be focused on models of prevention and housing and supports.

I’ll end by reminding everyone to come out for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in London, ON, November 2-4. We collaborated with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness to program a cohesive youth stream that deep dives on a number of issues critical to the prevention of youth homelessness. Stay tuned for my August post where I take a closer look at The Upstream Project and the critical role that schools in partnership with communities can play in the fight to end youth homelessness.

This post is part of a monthly series that follows A Way Home’s progress as we create real change on the issue of youth homelessness. On the second Wednesday of every month, join us for an update from A Way Home’s Executive Director, Melanie Redman.