The National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness (or Learning Community for short) is a pan-Canadian community of practice consisting of leading youth serving organizations across the country who are making the shift away from simply managing the crisis of youth homelessness to preventing and ending it. As a Founding Member of A Way Home Canada, the Learning Community helps guide and inform the national work of A Way Home Canada to prevent and end youth homelessness through impacting practice, policy, and planning. Recently, among other activities, Learning Community members were active in the 2019 Without a Home survey, and consulted on the Roadmap for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness.
As a community of practice, Learning Community members work together to share knowledge, tools, and resources about emerging issues in the youth homelessness sector, drawing from the voices of the youth that they work with. One of the most powerful aspects of a community of practice is that those involved are able to connect with one other to share ideas, especially when they’re faced with difficult issues, or when they’re trying to do something different or new–creating a network of members who are willing to collaborate in order for everyone to get better at what they’re doing.
When the Learning Community began 13 years ago, there were 8 members. This year we welcomed 5 new members, bringing our membership up to 29 organizations in total. Members are from all across Canada, tackling the issue of youth homelessness within many different community contexts, and connecting their knowledge to better serve young people.
As we do every year, this past May we gathered Learning Community members for an in-person meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to spend 3 days together tackling emerging issues, learning about what’s going on in our different communities (including highlighting work happening that we wanted to celebrate), and aligning our goals for the year. Members confirmed three strategic priorities for the Learning Community this year, as well as activities to be worked on within these areas: housing, prevention, and Indigenous youth.
- Further develop an index of housing programs and supports provided by Learning Community members, clarifying common definitions, language, and themes regarding these housing programs
- Continue to provide updates on how the National Housing Strategy and Reaching Home are being implemented in communities
- Develop change management tools to better help organizations shift towards prevention
- Continue to discuss, highlight, and share successes about how organizations are collaborating with child welfare to ensure better transitions for young people exiting care, as well as other systems youth may touch
- Support the development of Family and Natural Supports and Youth Reconnect toolkits and program guides under the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab
- Map Learning Community programs onto the Roadmap for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness and work to further mobilize the Roadmap in communities
- Continue to build an inventory of tools (including adding existing materials) for Learning Community members to better develop cultural safety and inclusion within their organizations, including:
- Templates and instructions for doing meaningful land acknowledgements, including an exercise in going through the meaning behind the words and language used in land acknowledgements as they apply in the local context
- Information about common medicines that are used in different regions
- Definitions of terms and how they can differ amongst different Indigenous Peoples
- Information about The Seven Sacred Teachings
- Helpful protocol for creating an inclusive space
- A self-reflection tool
- Plan to lead a Blanket exercise for the 2020 in-person Learning Community meeting
We are grateful that Learning Community members could come together in person to spend 3 days talking about the work that they’re doing in their communities, thinking up better ways to get things done, and strategizing around goals and activities to accomplish from all across Canada this year.
We know there are so many other organizations that are doing incredible work in Canada, and our goal is to continue to grow the membership of the Learning Community. If you are looking at the activities we have planned and would like to connect to the work of the Learning Community, please join us as general members here.