I recently heard a young person with lived experience of homelessness offering recommendations to A Way Home America and senior policy makers. He said that funding more services and supports for youth experiencing homelessness is great, but it’s not good enough. He talked about the damage to his life caused by his experiences in foster care and then later with homelessness. He came back again and again to the role of schools in preventing youth homelessness. He asked why we aren’t putting more effort and emphasis on school-based early intervention. Point taken, but what does that look like?
Why schools? Our response to that is because virtually every young person who becomes homeless was in school at one point, and most likely an adult in that school (teacher, coach, etc.) knew something was wrong, but didn’t know how to help. This model identifies and assesses students at risk and then connects them to community services that will support the young person and their family
One person who understands the importance of working upstream to support young people before they ever experience homelessness is Joe Roberts, a former homeless youth who began pushing a shopping cart across Canada on May 1st of this year to raise awareness about youth homelessness, but also to elevate the importance of prevention. This national trek will culminate in Vancouver on September 30, 2017. Part of the funds raised will go to support The Upstream Project and our efforts to scale this work. The other funds will stay in the community to support local services. Joe is stopping in over 300 secondary schools and will be involved in over 200 community events across the country. I checked The Push for Change website just this morning and Joe has already walked 1,751 km (and here I thought I was having a productive summer).
Will The Upstream Project end youth homelessness? Well no, not on its own, but this model combined with other models of prevention and appropriate housing and supports can. In the coming months we’ll continue to update you on how we are working together as a coalition to hit this issue from every angle. In the meantime, give a shout out to Joe and The Push for Change on social media. Let him know we’re with him on this. #pushforchange #endyouthhomelessness
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.