Ramping Up Efforts to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness in Ontario
Having ‘come from away’ I am under no illusion that Ontario, or Toronto for that matter, is the centre of the universe. That said, I’m pretty excited about working with community and government stakeholders to ramp up our efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness in Ontario. As Dr. Gaetz always says, it’s all about readiness.
So what’s happening in Ontario that makes it ready for a major shift in how we respond to youth homelessness? At this point I have to give a shout out to Alberta as the first province to have a provincial strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness. These efforts to craft and implement the strategy set the stage for critical learnings that are rippling across the country. The plan emphasizes the need for alignment across government programs and systems, and foregrounds prevention. In September 2014, the Ontario government announced its commitment to end homelessness as a part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. In response, the Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness was established with a mandate to give advice on how to define and measure homelessness in Ontario, how to prioritize and set targets for ending homelessness, and how to build the evidence base and capacity to implement best practices around the province. Based on the recommendations in the resulting report, the Province set four priorities to guide action to prevent, reduce, and end homelessness, focusing on:
- Chronic homelessness
- Youth homelessness
- Aboriginal homelessness
- Homelessness following transition from provincially-funded institutions and service systems
While this was happening, communities across Ontario were recognizing the need to have targeted strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness. Two Ontario communities, Kingston and Wellington County, were part of our national pilot program, Mobilizing Local Capacity to End Youth Homelessness, and actively engaged in the critical work of crafting and implementing these strategies. Other communities and the province took notice. As we officially launched A Way Home, the Government of Ontario supported the development of our Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit, with a Special Appendix for Service Managers in Ontario. This body of work helps communities go further, faster so they can get to the really difficult work of implementation, and outlines the role provincial ministries and Service Managers can play to align their efforts with those of communities. Around the same time we co-released an Ontario Policy Brief with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to help inform the provincial strategy moving forward.
While these efforts are underway, our team is providing targeted supports to a number of communities that have made headway on the issue. Some communities have even adopted the A Way Home name to highlight that their efforts are part of a broader movement for change. They’re signing on to working across systems through a Collective Impact lens and doing the difficult work of investing in and shifting efforts to prevention. A Way Home Ottawa, A Way Home Lanark County, A Way Home Toronto, and A Way Home Peterborough are just the tip of the iceberg. Positive change is underfoot and it couldn’t come soon enough for young people that deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential in life.
Stay tuned as we work alongside young people with lived experience, communities, and all orders of government to move the dial on the issue of 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.
Melanie Redman is the co-founder and President & CEO of A Way Home Canada. Melanie also leads the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, which is a national community of practice of youth homelessness service providers committed to reducing the amount of time any young person is in an emergency shelter or mired in homelessness. In her previous role as the Director of National Initiatives at Eva’s Initiatives, Melanie led a national pilot project to support a number of communities to develop targeted strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness. Learning from that project, other communities, and international best practices in planning led to the development of A Way Home’s Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit (authored by Dr. Alina Turner), which is utilized in communities around the world. She most recently led an international consultation process to refine and build consensus on the Canadian-made Housing First for Youth program model, which responds to the needs of developing adolescents. Melanie is an internationally-recognized thought leader on utilizing Collective Impact to work across the systems that drive young people into homelessness to ensure they are also be part of the solutions.
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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.