Hot Off the Press! “Making the Shift Year One Report” and “Funding Services for Homeless Youth in Canada: Review and Recommendations”

A Way Home Canada and MaRS Centre for Impact Investing
September 19, 2018

In 2017, we were proud to launch the “Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab” project with funding support from the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. Though Making the Shift is led by a partnership between A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, our community partners are key. It was a dynamic year of co-creating solutions to youth homelessness alongside youth-serving organizations in ten Canadian communities. Year One of MtS has come to a close, and we’re pleased to share our newly released “Making the Shift Year One Report.” At the same time, we want to showcase a key deliverable for Phase One of Making the Shift, which is an important piece of work led by our friends at MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. “Funding Services for Homeless Youth in Canada: Review and Recommendations” takes a critical look at how we currently fund youth homelessness interventions and then makes some recommendations for how we might do it differently and more effectively.

Phase One of MtS (2017-2019) involves the implementation of three demonstration projects at twelve sites across Ontario and Alberta. These large-scale demonstration projects seek to build practical knowledge and an evidence base for the following interventions focused on prevention and sustained exits from homelessness.

  1. Housing First for Youth (Ottawa, Toronto), Housing First for Indigenous Youth, Indigenous led (Hamilton)
  2. Enhancing Family and Natural Supports (Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Toronto)
  3. Youth Reconnect (Hamilton)

Most importantly, these demonstration projects provide critical services that will help ensure the best possible outcomes for young people and their families. All three interventions are designed to enhance housing stability, well-being and social inclusion, and thereby increase the engagement of young people in education, training and/or employment. As we build an evidence base on the effectiveness of these interventions, we must also think about the sustainability and scaling of this work, which requires us to ask some key questions of the role and approach of funders (government and philanthropy).

I’ve invited Duncan Farthing-Nichol from MaRS to share some of the key recommendations from the “Funding Services for Homeless Youth in Canada” report.

Thanks, Melanie. We at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing have learned a lot over the last year. We’ve interviewed homelessness experts and funders to find out more about how governments pay for homeless youth services today and how they might fund those services in the future. We’ve heard about empowering communities to decide their priorities while strengthening their ability to deliver. We’ve heard about gathering consistent data, emphasizing prevention, shifting dollars to focus on results and coordinating funding across government departments.

We drew a few recommendations from our research. First, federal and provincial governments that fund pilot programs should mandate strong evaluation designs to learn as much as possible about what programs work, for whom and under what conditions. For youth especially, communities often lack the detailed program evidence that allows a sophisticated response.

Second, federal and provincial governments should weigh tying a small portion of community-level homelessness funding to community-level results. A small amount paid on results could channel communities toward the federal or provincial government’s goals without micromanaging on-the-ground delivery. Any scheme to tie money to results must be made in close partnership with communities. The scheme must also adapt over time.

Third and last, federal and (especially) provincial governments should test cross-departmental funds to pay for homeless youth programs. Homelessness’ causes and consequences reach across departmental boundaries, yet departments not directly responsible for homelessness often shy away from taking part in homelessness programs. By paying for programs based on results - by paying, for example, on the number of youth who graduate from high school - a cross-departmental fund might attract interest from departments keen on those results. Paying for results clarifies how ending youth homelessness can help many departments realize their aims.

Back to you, Melanie.

MtS is providing leadership in helping communities and governments move away from band-aid solutions to youth homelessness through an investment in the development and testing of effective strategies to prevent youth homelessness and to help those who are experiencing homelessness to move out of it quickly and in a sustainable way. In partnership with MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, Making the Shift is also providing cost modelling and practical recommendations for how we can more effectively fund this important work. Over the next year we will continue to support program implementation and ongoing service delivery, as well as conducting rigorous research and evaluation and sharing findings as they emerge. For Phase Two of Making the Shift (Spring 2019 and beyond), we will build new partnerships that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of these interventions, while continuing to support our Phase One partners to provide critical services to young people and their families. We will also conduct additional research and evaluation of other interventions in the areas of prevention and sustained exits from homelessness. Our ongoing work with research, evaluation, program delivery, and cost modelling will continue to inform our policy and investment recommendations, as well as provide all Canadian communities with the practical tools (resources, training and technical assistance, etc.) they need to “Make the Shift.”

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