It’s hard to believe that we only launched the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (a Government of Canada’s Research Tri-Council funded “Networks of Centres of Excellence hosted by York University and the Faculty of Education) in April of this year. Much has transpired since that time, including everything you would expect when starting a new non-profit organization with both a national and international mandate. As Making the Shift is a network, we’ve not been alone in this endeavour. We’ve rallied people with lived experience of youth homelessness, researchers from across disciplines, service providers, policy makers from all orders of government, the legal and justice community, and members of the philanthropic community in order to maximize the impact of Making the Shift.

One of our first tasks was to design and launch our research program. This included our first Call for Expressions of Interest (EoI) for projects focusing on the prevention of youth homelessness. Our goal has been not to recreate or duplicate funding streams that already exist through Tri-Council programs (SSHRC, CIHR, NSERC), but rather identify high impact projects that present us with a real opportunity to move the dial on the prevention of youth homelessness. Of the 69 EoI’s received, 21 have gone forward to the full proposal stage.  Moreover, this process has helped us identify several areas where there is potential for broader collaboration.  For instance, a number of proposals clustered around key theme areas – transitions from care, the use of data and technology to address youth homelessness, longitudinal research, etc. – where, through designed collaboration, we can leverage our investments and ideally implement higher impact projects.

Additionally, Making the Shift builds on a body of work that began in 2017 with a series of demonstration projects funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Program. The Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab (MtS DEMS) continues to offer important learning on models of prevention (Enhancing Family & Natural Supports, Youth Reconnect) and Housing First for Youth. We’re compiling learning to date and will be releasing a report later this year. We continue to expand the facilitated communities of practice surrounding these models to welcome more and more communities poised to do this work. In the next phase of MtS DEMS, we will be offering enhanced training and technical assistance on these models. Lastly, the Youth Assessment and Prioritization Tool has been undergoing validation at the University of Ottawa. Soon the validation report will be finalized, recommended revisions integrated into the tool, and the official tool and website/database package will be available for wide adoption.

So what else is coming down the line? Well right out of the gate, the founding members of the Making the Shift lived experience advisory are working to launch a “Scholars with Lived Experience Network” to create rich training and mentorship opportunities for peers across Canada. In addition, we’ve hired a Training Coordinator who will be both working to support the Scholars With Lived Experience Network, but also working with the youth homelessness sector via the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness to develop advanced training modules on topics specific to youth homelessness prevention and sustained exits. We’ll be maximizing the COH’s Homelessness Learning Hub in this endeavour. We’re even hoping to launch a practitioner exchange program over the next few years in order to facilitate “peer to peer” learning. In addition, we’re working with our International Advisory Committee to plan our first international event for the fall of 2020.

Stay tuned for more information on all fronts.