Introduction: What are the Pathways towards Homelessness for Refugees?
As with any other vulnerable populations, refugees in Canada are subject to marginalization, discrimination, employment and income-related struggles, all of which take a toll on their social, physical, and psychological well-being. The needs of refugees are often different from other populations, as many are adjusting to a new socio-cultural environment, a new language, and often lacking in social/financial capital.
Discrimination continues to be challenge for many persons accessing services, and housing is no exception. Landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage financers typically serve as the gatekeepers of housing and if discrimination exists on the part of these individuals, a gigantic barrier is erupted for refugees in regard to attaining adequate housing.
Snapshot of Refugee Homelessness in Canada
In recent years, Canada has been experiencing a significant increase in the number of refugees entering the country. At the same time, the number of refugees among those experiencing homelessness in Canada has been drastically increasing. In Toronto alone, there was a leap from 490 refugee claimants per night in shelters to an alarming 2,350 per night in two years.
The city of Toronto expects refugees to make up 54% of the spaces by November 2018. If refugee occupancy rates in the shelter system remain at 40%, the temporary motel housing for refugees is expected to cost the city around $64 million this year. Here are some numbers:
- In late 2016, refugees made up around 11% of Toronto’s shelter system. By April 2018, that number has jumped to 37.5% (about 2,351 refugees in Toronto’s 6800-bed system).
- As of late April 2018, 7,612 asylum seekers have crossed into Canada. This is comparable to the 2,749 asylum seekers that entered Canada around the same time in 2017.
- In Toronto alone, 2,683 refugee claimants are housed within the Toronto shelter system, making up 41% of the shelter population.
However, we have also seen positive work being done for refugees. In Quebec, where the majority of asylum seekers are crossing, initiatives are being taken to expedite the integration of these individuals into the job market. The government decreased wait times for work permits from 3 months to 3 weeks alongside creating a triage system allocating people to regions in need of labourers, mostly in rural parts of Quebec.
Shelters and drop-in programs are not properly equipped with the resources to accommodate newcomers and refugees experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, there are systemic issues (i.e. discrimination, violence against women) that occur, which make it unsafe for certain groups of individuals. The shelter system needs to head towards development for a more accessible, appropriate and responsive system in order to accommodate a broader spectrum of people.
The concept of cultural competence seems to be lacking within the shelter systems, although it is a vital framework that needs to be adopted especially when dealing with people from a number of different backgrounds. Cultural competency can be defined as the ability of system to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviours including tailoring delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural and linguistic needs. Therefore, taking the lessons from “Nothing about us without us,” it is important that we include these individuals in the process and frameworks to be developed.
When considering the various ways to combat refugees’ experiences of homelessness, it is important to recognize the numerous challenges faced by refugees. Unlike other immigrants, refugees are forced to relocate from their home countries, due to intolerable circumstances in their homelands. Taking this into account, services and supports must recognize the trauma and stresses that many refugees endure while trying adapt to a new way of life.
There are supports in place for refugees coming to Canada such as the Resettlement Assistance Program, which provides direct financial help to eligible refugees. There are also various settlement organizations which help to arrange housing and supports.
Meanwhile, a number of barriers get in the way of a refugee’s ability to smoothly transition into their new environment and develop a sense of normalcy. Some of these barriers include: the lack of affordable and adequate housing, the burden of repaying medical, travel and transportation loans to the Canadian government, lack of recognized education or job skills leading to low-wage labour, experiences of trauma, and a lack of social supports or networks in their new environments.
Social supports and services must recognize these obstacles in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of facing homelessness, to gain stable, affordable housing and resettle in their new place of residence. Some of the next steps taken may include the following:
- Because it is often easier for settlement organizations to find affordable and suitably sized housing for refugees and their families in smaller urban centres, different transportation options need to be available. Some of these options may include: ride sharing, taxi buses, self-service bicycle and car rentals, and coaching for driver’s education (especially for women).
- Specialized assistance, trauma-informed care and/or counselling may be needed for refugees who have experienced traumatic events, including the process of their relocation.
- Supports should be put in place to ensure that there are sufficient resources for private sponsors of refugees, particularly when it comes to their orientation and mentoring activities.
- More affordable housing, including social housing funded by the federal government, could improve the living conditions for many refugees.
- Adequate planning, quick responses and local initiatives can serve as preventative measures, so that incoming refugees do not experience homelessness.
- Services that are delivered in a culturally relevant manner are essential, in order for them to be effective. This can help to ease the uncertainty of refugees who may be facing issues such as language barriers, social and emotional isolation, or having issues navigating the institutional systems in Canada.
- Efforts to tackle landlord discrimination, including requirements such as having a history of Canadian credit, rental history or not renting to families with children, which can especially exclude refugees from the housing market.
“We are becoming better at opening the back door of homelessness by assisting people to move out of this dire situation through providing them with necessary housing and supports” – A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention
Introduction: What is Homelessness Prevention?
Homelessness prevention is about finding ways to keep people from experiencing homelessness. This requires policies, practices, and interventions that reduce the likelihood of homelessness. It also means providing individuals (who have previously experienced homelessness or are entrenched in homelessness) with resources and supports to stabilize their housing, enhance integration and social inclusion, and ultimately reduce the risk of the recurrence of homelessness.
Shifting the Way We Deal With Homelessness
Until recently, our primary response to the homelessness crisis has been based on emergency services such as shelters. While emergency services play an important role in supporting those needing immediate assistance, they have a limited impact on reducing the scope and severity of the problem. Over the past few years, we have seen a shift in attitude on helping people exit homelessness and remain stably housed.
For example, ground-breaking initiatives like Housing First are changing the way we think about addressing homelessness. As we begin to work upstream, there are excellent examples of what shifting to prevention looks like, such as declaring housing to be a right, finding creative solutions to the lack of affordable housing stock, and implementing legislation, policy, and interventions to reduce the incidence of homelessness.
Below are some examples of governments and community-based organizations that have prioritized prevention in their response to homelessness.
In Canada, crisis interventions have been the main response to homelessness until recently. However, service providers and advocates have started to look into long-term strategies to move people out of homelessness. Most notable initiative is Housing First, which an approach built on the belief that all people have the right to housing and those who are experiencing homelessness will have better quality of life and recover more effectively if they are first provided with housing; this is followed by wrap-around supports as needed. This philosophy makes Housing First a form of prevention, because it uses rapid rehousing and supports people to maintain housing stability so that they don’t experience homelessness again.
Other prevention models share the philosophy of a right to housing. The City of London, Ontario is transforming their homeless services into a Homelessness Prevention System. Their report pointed out that investing in more shelters had helped them cope with the homelessness crisis. Their system applies key areas of Housing First where individuals and families experiencing homelessness are quickly moved into housing with support and then begin to work on the issues that contributed to their homelessness from the stability and safety of their own home. London also introduced the “Jail to Home” program, where individuals being discharged from correctional facilities are moved into stable housing rather than emergency shelters.
To address youth homelessness prevention, Raising the Roof is piloting The Upstream Project, which is a Canadian adaptation of The Geelong Project (TGP) (originally from Australia; see below) in the Niagara and York regions. TGP works with schools and is aimed at young people at risk of disengaging with school, becoming unhoused, and entering the justice system.
The U.S. has moved the dial on homelessness prevention for its key populations. Veteran homelessness is a priority, with the creation of a universal screening tool within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration, which provides rapid rehousing and supports for veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
The U.S. has also directed efforts in addressing youth homelessness. Between 2014 and 2015, the Washington Coalition for Homeless Youth Advocacy (WACHYA) developed and successfully advocated for the passage of the Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act into law, designed to prevent youth homelessness. It established the Office of Homeless Youth, which leads state-wide efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness for youth and young adults. The Act contains a strong focus on family reconnection and commits to preventing discharging children onto the streets from state systems, such as foster care and juvenile justice facilities. In addition, the American Bar Association produced examples of Model Reforms to Child Protection laws that can be adapted at the state level. Finally, some community-based agencies have implemented innovative strategies to support youth leaving care such as Oakland, California’s First Place for Youth program, a homelessness prevention strategy to support youth leaving care that has shown to be effective.
Australia has been a leader in youth homelessness prevention since the 90s. Rather than directing efforts to building a crisis response to address youth homelessness, Australia invests in two substantial nationally-funded, school-based early intervention strategies for youth.
The first is the Reconnect Program, which has been in operation since 1999. Its extensive evaluation has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing youth homelessness. This broadly implemented program is delivered through community-based services that work in collaboration with schools. The goal of Reconnect is to work with young people when they are identified as ‘at risk’ of homelessness and help them stabilize their living situation and “improve their level of engagement with family, work, education, and training in their local community.” The Reconnect Program is also an example of a systems level approach to early intervention, because it is widely available across the country and works across institutional jurisdictions to provide young people with the supports they need to stay at home or find alternative living arrangements in their community.
The second school-based intervention is the Geelong Project, which has also been extensively researched. The Geelong Project integrates and delivers early intervention services through system and service delivery development and reform. It begins with the Student Needs Survey, an evidence-based assessment tool that looks at both risks and assets. Every student in a school who is 12 years of age and older must complete the survey, which makes it a population-based form of primary prevention. The results are then combined with knowledge obtained about students from other sources, including teachers and counsellors. Students deemed at risk of homelessness, dropping out, or criminal involvements are provided with place-based case management support (including family mediation). Canada has adapted the Geelong Project’s model with The Upstream Project.
Another prevention-based program in Australia is Justice Connect Homeless Law, which has piloted a two-year project called the Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP) out of Victoria. It is designed to prevent women and children’s eviction by providing legal support and social services such as family violence counselling, employment services and emergency financial assistance. WHPP prevented the eviction or found immediate alternative stable housing for 102 women and 157 children in their care. The WHPP estimates that preventing homelessness for these 62 women and their families saved Australia $1,825,900 (AUS) in health, justice and welfare costs.
The U.K. has its own national response to homelessness; this includes a response to youth homelessness by implementing early intervention programs. One is Host Homes, a shelter diversion program designed to provide young people and their families with community-based supports when a young person is at imminent risk of, or has become, homeless. The goal is to provide young people with temporary shelter, usually in a community member’s home, so they can remain in their community, stay in school, and are connected to their natural supports rather than relying on the emergency shelter system. When young people leave home due to family conflict, Host Homes can provide respite accommodation, allowing young people and their family a “cooling off” period during which time they can undertake a needs assessment and identify potential supports (such as family mediation). Young people and their families are provided with appropriate community-based case management and supports designed to help them either return home or move into age-appropriate accommodation in a safe and planned way. Nightstop is a specific Host Home program with a strong evidence base that collaborates with 360° Kids in York Region in Ontario. When placed with a Host, young people receive support from 360° Kids to help them find a permanent place to live and access supports.
Moreover, there is a Reconnect program in U.K. to prevent youth homelessness. The program aims to support family cohesion and repair fragmented relationships before things hit crisis point, as well as intervening when young people have left home and presented themselves as homeless to statutory services. This program has a strong evidence base as well, which reports that “homelessness is prevented in 90 per cent of clients who are helped before they leave home, compared to 64 per cent of clients helped at the point of breakdown after they have left home.”
Wales is currently a leader in homelessness prevention legislation and systems change. The Housing (Wales) Act of 2014 outlines specific obligations of different levels of government and addresses the institutional and systems-based drivers of homelessness. Specifically, it states that local authorities have a duty to provide information, advice, assistance, and navigation supports to those at risk of homelessness and to ensure services are in place to meet the needs of particular groups who are deemed to be at higher risk of homelessness. This includes (a) people leaving prison or youth detention accommodation, (b) young people leaving care, (c) people leaving the regular armed forces of the Crown, (d) people leaving hospital after medical treatment for mental disorder as an inpatient, and (e) people receiving mental health services in the community.
Ireland enacted a national Homeless Preventative Strategy in 2002. The strategy focused on the risk of homelessness for those leaving state institutions such as prisons, hospitals, or child protection. However, the strength of the legislation was identifying institutional pathways into homelessness that revealed state institutions’ responsibility for prevention. However, as the legislation was originally conceived, it did not adequately address the role of community services in the non-profit sector in facilitating transitions and enhancing housing stability. The strategy has since evolved to strengthen these aspects.
Recently, Finland’s Action Plan for Preventing Homelessness (2016-2019) uses Housing First to strengthen the prevention of homelessness and prevent the recurrence of homelessness. This action plan calls for collaboration between the housing, social services, health, and employment sectors. The Welsh government has implemented homelessness prevention legislation that clearly articulates what kinds of interventions are supported, the structural changes needed to achieve this end, and which parts of government must be involved. Finland has had earlier successful strategies, making Finland a leader in homelessness prevention.
In terms of facilitating effective transitions from public institutions or systems, such as children leaving child protection, Scotland extended the age of care; the country now provides aftercare for young people in their early 20s, and have enhanced statutory obligations to support young people in making a staged and successful transition towards adulthood and independence. Staying put Scotland (2013) outlines strategies to support successful transitions for young people, describing the relationship between the State and other non-profit providers working with youth.
Nationally and internationally, there has been some shift in the way that we address homelessness, from prioritizing the use of emergency services to investing in prevention efforts. There is compelling evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of prevention. It is vital that we follow the lead of these countries and continue in our own efforts to make homelessness prevention a priority in our efforts to end homelessness.
In this bi-weekly blog series, I explore recent research on homelessness, and what it means for the provision of services to prevent or end homelessness.
Financial supports for low-income Canadians are much more comprehensive for older adults than for those supported through general social assistance. In Ontario, for example, between OAS, GIS, GAINS, CPP, the GST/HST credit, and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, less than 5% of seniors live below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO). However, in spite of these more comprehensive income supports, older adults are still at risk of experiencing housing loss.
Victoria Burns and Tamara Sussman sought to understand pathways into homelessness for older adults in Montreal, Quebec. They interviewed 15 men and women currently residing in emergency shelters. Through a grounded theory analysis, they discovered two distinct pathways into homelessness for older adults: Gradual versus Rapid.
A gradual pathway into homelessness involved decades or a lifetime of financial, social, health, and/or housing precarity. These individuals had often accessed many services for many years, including frequently living on poverty-level social assistance rates. Many had complex and traumatic life histories including activities meant to assist in maintaining housing. For these individuals, entering emergency shelter was often considered a relief, as they entered a system of support and momentarily left behind a lifetime of stressors related to maintaining housing.
A rapid pathway into homelessness involved multiple, rapidly-occurring catastrophic events such as relationship-breakdown, financial crisis, health crises, or deaths. For these individuals, entering emergency shelter was often perceived as a shock and a failure. These individuals often minimized their use of services, feeling ashamed of reaching out for support.
While these unique pathways into homelessness for older adults are interesting, and should lead those providing emergency shelter to reflect on the very divergent experiences of those they support, the conclusions of the authors sound all too familiar. “We recommend an influx on affordable, quality housing with varying types and levels of support.” Neither those who experience gradual or rapid losses should have to end up in shelter if better housing with supports were available.
However, the authors offer an additional and potentially promising practice: Those who add themselves to the social housing waitlists should automatically be connected with an intake worker to be assessed for potential case management support. This could be a preventative intervention for a group who is self-identifying as being in housing need.
Canada’s Federal Homeless strategy was initiated eighteen years ago with a three year commitment of funding for communities across Canada. Since that time it has never been transformed into a permanent program, having been continuously renewed for periods of one to five years often accompanied by reductions in funding. As part of the new National Housing Strategy, the Government of Canada has done something bold: it has committed to a ten year investment in a new homelessness strategy (which it describes as Phase One), with a doubling of the previous funding level. The questions we have been waiting to have answered are, what will the new program look like? What will be the government’s priorities? The release of two reports that are the outcome of national consultations over the past year “Advisory Committee on Homelessness – Final Report” and “Homelessness Partnering Strategy Engagement – What We Heard Report 2018” may offer some insights into the direction the government is heading.
I had the privilege of being appointed to the Advisory Committee on Homelessness, and participating in it’s deliberations. The Committeeis made up of a diversity of individuals with different kinds of knowledge from across Canada that include: key communities, representatives from national organizations, researchers, Indigenous leaders, and people with lived experience of homelessness. Our mandate was to consult with experts and stakeholders throughout Canada and provide next steps to redesign the new national homelessness strategy, and the results of this work led by Parliamentary Secretary Adam Vaughan, including 12 recommendations, was presented to the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. As the government announces details of the new program in the coming months, in light of these recommendations, I want to highlight several important themes from the report that suggest the federal government may be ready to move in a bold direction.
1. Adopt a national definition of homelessness to break barriers
The Government of Canada has never adopted an official definition of homelessness, meaning there is often confusion as to what problem we are trying to solve. Does homelessness only describe people sleeping rough or in emergency shelters? What about the hidden homeless? Or those at risk of homelessness? The Committee recommends adopting a broad, inclusive, and consistent definition of homelessness. The Canadian Definition of Homelessness describes a range of accommodations that make up the continuum of homelessness – unsheltered, emergency sheltered, provisionally accommodated, and at risk of homelessness. By adopting this widely used definition, HPS will be able to expand its scope, thereby improving access to funding for groups less likely to qualify as ‘chronically homeless’ (as measured through shelter use), such as Indigenous People’s, youth, LGBTQ2S-identified people, and women. Employing a comprehensive definition will shed a light on hidden homelessness and increase transparency, regarding the scale and impact of homelessness in Canada.
The Committee also recommends that HPS review the Indigenous Definition on Homelessness in Canada as the program is designed and delivered. The definition reflects Indigenous Peoples’ experiences of homelessness as more than houselessness, but as a loss of All my Relations. Historical and ongoing colonization practices and discrimination have led to the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples among those experiencing homelessness. Applying the Indigenous definition will provide opportunities for HPS to better listen to and support Indigenous communities to provide the programs and services they identify as crucial to ending Indigenous homelessness.
2. Taking a rights-based approach to homelessness and housing
Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, has argued that “Homelessness is the most egregious violation of the right to housing and other human rights.”1 The Advisory Committee has asked that the Government of Canada place “Realizing the right to housing for Canadians experiencing homelessness” as central to the government’s strategy. This is important, because even when the National Housing Strategy leads to an expansion of supply of affordable housing, this will not on its own guarantee a reduction in homelessness, because of the pent up demand within the rest of society. In framing housing as a human right, this means going beyond simply a rights-based approach. The government will need to explicitly acknowledge its obligations to international treaties and progressively work towards implementing this right fully within a reasonable amount of time. The right to housing means that governments will be obligated to support those in greatest need such as people experiencing homelessness to get access to housing that is safe, appropriate and affordable, and that this right is judiciable (meaning if a person’s rights are violated, they will have legal recourse to public hearings, adjudication and remedies to ensure the government meets its obligations). Ensuring that the obligations to the right to housing is honoured, will mean that the integration and linkage between the National Housing Strategy and the new national homelessness strategy is made clear, ensuring that the goal of ending homelessness is truly possible.
3. Work towards solutions guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
One of the consequences of our history of colonization in Canada is that Indigenous peoples are overrepresented amongst homeless populations, whether we are talking about adults or youth. We believe we cannot discuss homelessness in Canada without acknowledging and addressing this challenge through collaboration and meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples. The Committee positioned its recommendations within the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The HPS renewal must advance meaningful reconciliation, which includes supporting Indigenous-led solutions to homelessness. The Committee recommends increased funding for the Indigenous stream of HPS, particularly the addition of new funding for the Territories, with the knowledge that Northern Indigenous communities have unique challenges that require community-led solutions. Not only must we work towards better and more inclusive outcomes for Indigenous people, but Indigenous ways of knowing should be informing how we work with all people at risk of, or who experience homelessness.
4. Shift to prevention
The Committee also recommends that HPS prioritize homelessness prevention and this is a bold and overdue move. In North America, unlike elsewhere in the world, we have been very reluctant to embrace the importance of prevention as part of the strategy to address homelessness. The argument that as a crisis response, we need to focus only on those in greatest need – in this case chronically homeless persons – before we can focus on prevention is not justifiable. We would never accept building our entire health care system around the emergency room, waithing for people to be extremely sick or close to death before we help them.
In keeping with the recommendations found within Leading the Way: Reimagining Federal Leadership on Preventing Homelessness,the Committee calls for HPS to work upstream and reduce the in-flow into homelessness. In 2014, the HPS renewal centered around investing in Housing First, where large communities were directed to use 65% of their funding towards Housing First initiatives. This same policy shift now needs to take place with prevention. By adopting the definition of homelessness prevention found in the COH’s Prevention Framework, HPS can take another bold and resolute step forward, with emphasis on progressive policy, systems-based approaches, early intervention and housing retention. We should never design a system where people are only offered help after the experience of homelessness has been sufficiently damaging to a person’s health and well-being. People should not have to wait until things get really bad to get help. So while the advisory committee has recommended the government continue to prioritize chronic homelessness (and those with high acuity), it is worth pointing out once again that all orders of government and communities are allowed to have more than one priority. It is my belief that we can never end homelessness until we figure out how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
5. Prioritize and invest in strategic youth-focused programs and services
The causes and conditions of youth homelessness, compared with adults are unique, and therefore so must be the solutions. When the 2014 HPS renewal prioritized chronically and episodically homeless populations, concerns from sector stakeholders emerged that the current investment requirements create barriers for communities to support other vulnerable populations, such as youth. The Advisory Committee has flagged the importance of addressing youth homelessness to meet the federal government’s mandate of reducing chronic and episodic homelessness by 50%. Addressing youth homelessness now will prevent chronic homelessness in the future.
The Committee has strongly recommended that communities implement comprehensive and data driven systems plans to respond to homelessness, and that targeted strategies to end youth homelessness must be visibly and robustly embedded in those plans. Communities should be supported to implement innovative programs and interventions that, based on the needs of developing adolescents and young adults, focus on prevention and supporting rapid exits from homelessness for youth. Given what we are learning about how to address youth homelessness through prevention, a strong investment in this area can help the government realize its goal of helping communities shift to prevention. The Committee also raises the overrepresentation of LGBTQ2S youth among people experiencing homelessness and the need for proactive policies, programs, and practices to address their specific needs.
This is what moving forward looks like
Should the government mobilize our recommendations, we are excited by the future before us. Big changes lay ahead; with the federal government taking a leadership position, it’s time to do things differently. Communities are ready – let’s move forward, together.
In June 2017, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development took a bold and important step. The step signaled that the Federal Government was prepared to listen, shift its course and prioritize particular issues within the Canadian context in relation to the redesign of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy. The most important role of any government is to listen to community and its stakeholders and respond accordingly. To help them listen, a 13-member Advisory Committee on Homelessness (the Committee) was assembled. Roundtables, hosted by the Committee, were held in eight regions (along with a roundtable focused on veterans homelessness, a meeting with Community Entities and Community Advisory Board representatives at CAEH17) where additional insight and priorities were captured. The result was a breadth of content, research and feedback from the public consultation process that shaped the Committee’s final report (insert link) with recommendations to the Minister.
Does the report signal a new direction for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy? We think it does and here are 5 reasons why:
- The lives of young people matter: We must transform the way we respond to youth homelessness and the Committee’s report clearly articulates the “how”. By moving from managing the crisis and putting young people at great risk, to an approach that focuses on the health and well-being of young people and assisting them to transition to adulthood in a safe and planned manner. The Without a Home study (Gaetz, O’Grady, Kidd & Schwan, 2016) which is the largest research project on youth homelessness ever conducted in Canada (led by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada), found that a large percentage of young people had their first experience of homelessness before they were 16 years of age. These young people had much worse childhood experiences (ex. exposure to physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as bullying), greater housing instability (including multiple episodes of homelessness), and more acute mental health challenges. Retained investments in Housing First and other community supports should be a priority given the foundation HPS has established across Canada. This must be accompanied by a dedicated investment in, and prioritization, of youth homelessness.
- Prevention can be its own priority: The importance of prevention is highlighted throughout the report and this is coupled with recommendations focusing on funding for demonstration projects. The suggestion that the government should have a clear definition of prevention, pursue opportunities for partnerships with others orders of government or government departments should be seen as something we can all organize around. Provinces and Territories are looking for opportunities to align and harmonize their efforts. We feel this opens up a specific opportunity for the Federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and indigenous governments to make Canada a world leader in helping young people successfully transition from care in a way that is safe, planned, and supported.
- Community Planning is changing: Communities across the country are engaging in processes to plan and implement youth homelessness strategies, and many more have indicated a readiness to do so. In addition, we are seeing communities embedding the issue of youth homelessness and the necessary responses within broader community plans to address homelessness. The Committee’s report focuses on coordinated local homelessness systems and the need for communities to ensure these systems are data-driven. This kind of coordination and emphasis, which should include data focusing on the Canadian definition of youth homelessness along with measurable targets, can bring us closer to local systems that prevent and reduce homelessness, with the hope of ending it.
- Innovation should be rewarded: As demonstrated by the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab, it is clear that the Federal government wants the evidence and foundation necessary to transform the homeless serving system. While the current Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding stream through HPS was criticized, the recommendations mold a new and transformative process for communities to innovate. At its core, the innovation stream should provide the flexibility to launch, research and evaluate demonstration projects so the right tools and resources can be developed to support other communities. This knowledge mobilization will ensure models of prevention can take root at the policy and practice levels.
- Federal, Provincial and Territorial Leadership is needed: Moving away from siloed policy work has always been a priority for governments. Many would suggest that the policy landscape that surrounds the issue of youth homelessness is extremely challenging. We would view those challenges as unique opportunities. Provinces and Territories have dedicated child intervention systems, justice systems, education systems and health and mental health care systems that all have a role in responding to youth homelessness. The Committee is recommending a Federal, Provincial and Territorial Committee on youth homelessness be created to allow for greater alignment of policy, funding and share best practices. Tasked with the responsibility of developing a pan-Canadian youth homelessness strategy, this would allow government and community stakeholders to come together to support and enable community-driven responses and client-centered approaches to addressing youth homelessness.
Here at A Way Home Canada we are very pleased with the alignment of the recommendations in our 2017 federal policy brief, “Opportunity Knocks,” with the recommendations in the Advisory Committee’s final report. The boldness of this government to undertake an open, transparent and community focused approach to the redesign of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy should be commended. The commitment, focus and tireless pursuit of changing the status quo by the Committee’s Chair, Adam Vaughan should be celebrated. When we see change and recommendations are accepted, we sincerely hope that those who contributed to the process feel validated and heard. We will continue to work with our government and community partners to make this report matter.
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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.