On March 30, 2021, A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and our co-led Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab hosted a National Roundtable on Youth Homelessness and Prevention with the Honourable Minister Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth and Adam Vaughan, MP Spadina-Fort York and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Featured guests included a number of youth with lived experience of youth homelessness alongside service providers from across Canada.
The purpose of the Roundtable was to continue ongoing dialogue with our federal partners on how we can best work together to meet the needs of young people and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the context of the pandemic and during recovery. The pandemic has shed light on how unsafe it can be for people to be mired in homelessness for any amount of time and has opened up new conversations about homelessness prevention. We wanted Minister Chagger and MP Vaughan to have the opportunity to hear directly from youth with lived experience of homelessness about the kinds of intervention that would have prevented their homelessness or moved them out of homelessness more quickly and successfully. Having engaged stakeholders through social media in advance of the Roundtable, we were able to submit broad and aligned themes on youth homelessness and prevention to our federal partners to support the dialogue.
There were a number of key themes that emerged from the Roundtable. We were not surprised to see the same themes emerging from the Roundtable that also feature prominently in the What Would It Take: Youth Across Canada Speak Out on Youth Homelessness Prevention report.
- Family and Natural Supports: Youth named how critical it is that they are supported to stay connected or get connected to family and natural supports. Paid supports are important, but they’re not sustainable. Youth also named that often, at their point of crisis, intervening with family mediation would have prevented them from becoming homeless. Sometimes families just need a bit of financial support. Other times they need support to help them build healthier relationships.
- Schools: Over and over, youth discussed how schools have to play a bigger role in recognizing when a young person is in crisis and then partnering with community organizations skilled in working with youth to provide support and services to young people and their families.
- Mental Health: As well all know, the pandemic is only exacerbating issues related to mental health and well-being for youth and families. Youth participants feel that at every point of their crisis, more mental health supports were needed.
- Peer Mentors: Youth expressed the positive role that peer mentors can play on their journey to exit homelessness.
Our Making the Shift body of work is designed to build the knowledge base, tools, resources and training and technical assistance needed to make the shift to youth homelessness prevention. Minister Chagger and MP Adam Vaughan were incredibly responsive to the ideas that emerged from the Roundtable. Our work with our federal partners will continue to focus on what Making the Shift can bring to the table in support of the government’s priorities to end chronic homelessness, create employment for youth and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.Preventing Youth Homelessness in Canada During the Pandemic and Beyond