Research Matters Blog

Calgary Homeless Foundation
December 05, 2017

The opinions expressed are the author’s and not those of the COH. For details on the COH’s position on the NHS announcement, please see bit.ly/2AuhWL6.  


On November 22, the Trudeau government unveiled its much-anticipated National Housing Strategy. While much of the Strategy’s content and funding levels had already been broadly outlined in the most recent federal budget, the Strategy provides further detail on the content of a renewed federal role in affordable housing.

Here are 10 things to know:

  1. The Strategy aims to reduce chronic homelessness by 50% over 10 years. According to the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy Directives: “Chronically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions (e.g. chronic physical or mental illness, substance abuse problems), who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year (i.e., have spent more than 180 cumulative nights in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation).” Setting targets is certainly a positive, however, in the absence of a clearly defined implementation framework it’s very challenging for researchers to accurately assess how realistic this target is vis-à-vis various spending commitments.
  2. A key feature of the Strategy is the announcement of the government’s intent to create a Canada Housing Benefit. This benefit will consist of financial assistance[1] to help low-income households afford the rent in both private and social housing units. The Trudeau government estimates that this will cost $400 million over seven years beginning in 2020, and that the average beneficiary will receive $2,500 in support per year. It is expected that half of this money will come from the federal government, and the other half from provinces and territories. Certain subgroups will be prioritized—however, it’s not clear which subgroups of households will be targeted. This benefit program will be designed by 2020, in partnership with provinces and territories.  It’s therefore unclear how this new benefit program will interact with the rest of Canada’s income assistance framework. For example, will a social assistance recipient who receives this new benefit be allowed to keep the full value of both the new benefit and their existing social assistance benefits? What about a household that’s already receiving a provincially-administered rent supplement? And what will this look like on reserve?
  1. A new National Housing Co-Investment Fund will create up to 60,000 units of new housing and repair up to 240,000 units of existing housing. Over 10 years, this federally-managed initiative will be worth $15.9 billion (including $4.7 billion in capital grants and $11.2B in low-interest loans from CMHC). About half of the grant funding will fund repair, while the other half will fund new builds. This will assist both with social housing and housing that’s owned and operated by for-profit landlords. This large fund will consist of several programs that target different groups; it will include grants and loans. The federal government anticipates 6,000 new housing units annually will be created, in addition to repairs. At least 7,000 shelter spaces will be created or repaired for survivors of family violence. There will also be 12,000 new units created for seniors. At least 2,400 new units for persons with developmental disabilities will be created. This is a unilateral federal program; dollar-for-dollar cost-sharing will not be required from provincial and territorial governments (however, some assistance from provincial and territorial governments may be required). Among other things, this is a demonstration of the Trudeau government’s interest in getting back into the direct delivery of housing programs. Quebec has alreadysaid that it does not want direct federal involvement in the housing sector and expects to negotiate an arrangement whereby the government of Quebec will remain solely responsible for the development of its housing sector.
  1. The Canada Community Housing Initiative will focus on preserving existing units of social housing. This will entail $4.3 billion of federal funding over a decade and will require cost-matching from provinces and territories. Note that this is precisely the amount of federal funding set to expire over the next decade on existing social housing units (ergo: this is about expiring operating agreements). Canada’s approximately 500,000 social housing units that are both administered by either provincial or territorial authorities, and have rent-geared-to-income (RGI) subsidies, are eligible for this. This fund will assist with repairs, help keep rents affordable and provide mortgage assistance for the operators. This means the issue of ‘expiring operating agreements’ is fixed for the next 10 years…provided the provinces and territories agree to cost-match. (The Federal Community Housing Initiative will do essentially the same thing for social housing units that are federally-administered; this will include co-op units. This will entail $500 million in federal funding over 10 years. No cost matching will be required here.)[2]
  1. The Trudeau government appears to want to shift traditional ‘social housing’ models toward mixed-income developments. Developments that are 100% RGI will be discouraged; likewise, current 100% RGI will be encouraged to be redeveloped with income mix.[3] This will be done through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund and through the Canada Community Housing Initiative (both of which are discussed above).
  1. An assortment of additional new initiatives were announced. A new Federal Housing Advocate will be created. A new National Housing Council will be created, it will be an advisory body that will provide ongoing input to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). It will begin its work in 2018. A new Community Based-Tenant Initiative will be created; it will foster participation by people with lived experience. A new public engagement campaign (with an anti-stigma focus) will be created.
  1. The Strategy discusses a National Housing Strategy Research Agenda. Worth $241 million over 10 years, the Strategy says this Agenda will embrace open data. Some of this funding will go to Statistics Canada; some will go to CMHC. According to the Strategy, the Trudeau government wants to increase funding for housing research “both inside and outside government and enhance the channels available to communicate research results.” Also according to the Strategy: “Solution Labs will be funded to bring experts and a range of housing stakeholders together to rapidly incubate and scale potential solutions to housing affordability pressures. Through open competitive processes, teams from the housing sector will be invited to identify housing challenges in key National Housing Strategy priority areas and propose strategies to develop new, world-leading solutions.”[4]
  1. The Strategy refers to this as “Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy,” but that may not be accurate. In in the mid-1980s, Canada’s federal government released a document titled A National Direction for Housing Solutions, which many housing policy experts considered to be a form of a strategy. This had a transformative impact on affordable housing policy in Canada—specifically, it got the provinces and territories more engaged in affordable housing (that document can be accessed online, free of charge, at this link). Also, while the new Strategy contains some language pertaining to home ownership, the Strategy is very heavily focused on the rental sector.[5]
  1. The Strategy may overstate a few points. As indicated above, the Trudeau government may be stretching things when it says this is Canada’s “first ever” National Housing Strategy. Likewise, the Strategy vows to create four times as many housing units annually as were created from 2005 to 2015. However, according to Greg Suttor’s new book about the history of Canadian social housing policy, approximately 7,900 affordable rental housing units (not counting on reserve housing) were created annually during the 2005-2013 period.[6] Since the Strategy claims it will create 100,000 new units over 10 years, it would be more accurate to say that it will result in a modest increase in new builds annually (indeed, it’s quite unlikely that there will even be a doubling of annual new builds under the Strategy). Further, CMHC has not published good data on numbers of new units created annually over the past several decades, so this makes it challenging for researchers to ‘fact check’ any such claim with any level of precision.
  1. There will be lots to monitor over the next several years, and there are many unresolved questions. For example, beginning in 2020, there will be reports to Parliament every three years on housing targets and outcomes. But who will do that reporting, who will set the metrics for the reporting and who will calculate the figures? Also, the federal government says it’s working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations to develop separate housing plans, but what will they look like and will they involve new funding? The Strategy vows to take a “rights-based approach to housing” and this will require new legislation; but it’s not clear what such an approach actually means. Finally, what happens if some provinces or territories refuse to ‘cost match’ some of the initiatives?

In Sum. This Strategy’s unveiling is arguably the most positive development in federal housing policy since the early 1970s. It signals that the Trudeau government is serious about federal housing policy. But while the government’s intent is clear, we’ll now see how well they can actually deliver.

I wish to thank Tim Aubry, Victoria Ballance, Janice Chan, George Fallis, Martina Jileckova, Marc Lee, Lindsay Lenny, David Macdonald, Michael Mendelson, Jeff Morrison, Geoffrey Nelson, Chidom Otogwu, Steve Pomeroy, Tim Richter, Joel Sinclair, Marion Steele, Greg Suttor, John Sylvestre and one anonymous reviewer for invaluable assistance with this blog post. Any errors are mine.


[1] For more on what such a benefit structure might look like, see this March 2016 report by Michael Mendelson.

[2] This funding for expiring operating agreements (i.e. the $4.3 billion + $500 million) was the only ‘new money’ announced in the Strategy. Though the 2017 federal budget had announced the intent to reinstate funding for expiring operating agreements, the actual amount was not spelled out. It will now take a supplemental vote in Parliament to formalize this additional funding.

[3] Adam Vaughan (a Toronto Member of Parliament) is believed to be the chief architect of this piece of the Strategy.

[4] Both of the quotes used in this paragraph are taken from p. 21 of the Strategy.

[5] Thus, it would probably be more accurate to call this an ‘affordable housing strategy’ than a ‘comprehensive housing strategy.’

[6] Dr. Suttor had to impute this figure, based on multiple sources. He presents the results in Table 8.5

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This blog post has been republished with permission from the Calgary Homeless Foundation website.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
November 30, 2017

Traditionally, policy and programming targeting homelessness has been based on the perception that homelessness was largely an issue among older, single men. However, as the population of those experiencing homelessness diversifies, the development of policy and programming requires the consideration of needs specific to these distinct populations.  

Many women who are experiencing homelessness feel that the programs they access are more responsive to their funders than to the unique needs of the individuals using the programs. They are calling for direct involvement of women and transwomen in the creation of policy and programming which will affect them.

Input from women is especially important with the rise of poverty and homelessness among female populations. A literature review found that women were more likely than men to experience poverty. The same review revealed that women earn only 71% of the average male income.

When speaking of unique experiences of homelessness among women, it is important to highlight that some women face additional challenges; these unique experiences can be understood by considering their intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a way of understanding an individual’s unique experience by considering various dimensions of their lives. Due to various trauma or difficulties they may face (such as experiencing domestic violence or living with a disability) or their unique identities (such as being an Indigenous woman, transwoman, or a mother), individuals face discrimination or oppression that is unique. As a result, their needs are unique as well. 

Life Experience, Homelessness and Poverty

Domestic Violence

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that domestic violence is the primary cause of homelessness for women and their families.

The ACLU highlighted that an abused woman will likely be financially dependent and not have access to a stable income. In addition, she will often have a limited social support network as violent partners use social isolation as a method of control.

If a women experiencing domestic violence leaves her partner, she will have little access to resources. One study found that 38% of women experience homelessness immediately after they leave their partners due to violence.

Further evidence of the role of violence was shown in a homelessness study in Ireland. It was found that 92% of homeless women surveyed had experienced some form of violence in their lives. 67% had experienced violence specifically from a partner. Women are four times more likely than men to be victims of violence by their partner.

These women require resources that would allow them to escape violence quickly. They need adequate financial and social support systems to enable a life of independence and to eliminate returning to their abuser out of necessity for housing and other resources. They also require protection from their abuser; a guarantee for their safety.

Living with Disability

It has been found that 15% of individuals with a disability are impoverished; 59% of those individuals are women, while only 55% of individuals experiencing a disability are female. Meanwhile, 55.4% of those living in poverty without a disability are female.

Another study discovered that women with disabilities face food insecurity, housing instability, and inadequate healthcare at higher rates than those without a disability.

In general, there is a higher rate of those living with disabilities (physical or mental) among the homeless population than among the general population. It has also been uncovered that potential landlords are less likely to rent a space to someone with a disability.

When considering policy and programming for women with disabilities who are also experiencing homelessness, these intersections of experience must be considered to tackle discrimination and meet their needs. Examples of unique needs for this population include accessible and affordable mental health services for those living with a mental disorder, and accessible housing units for those experiencing physical disability.

Identity, Homelessness and Poverty

Indigenous Women in Canada

In Canada, Indigenous women are 2.5 times as likely to experience violence compared to non-Indigenous women. This is a by-product of intergenerational trauma at the hands of colonization.

If an individual is perceived to identify as a female, they are already at a higher risk of violence because they are part of a group that faces larger rates of violence. However, if an individual is a female, and Indigenous, they must face both the oppression imposed on the female, and on Indigenous Peoples. Their oppression is compounded by every part of their identity that is marginalized.

Additionally, history of trauma and abuse imposed on Indigenous Peoples, by European settlers in Canada, needs to be explored and acknowledged by policy makers and program facilitators. It needs to be acknowledged that this history has increased risk of homelessness and poverty among Indigenous Peoples in order to facilitate healing.

Also, Indigenous practices may be helpful in the healing of Indigenous women who have experienced homelessness due to violence or other trauma. The Wellesley Institute had found that Aboriginal women who have experienced homelessness request Aboriginal-led services to better support their needs.

Policies and programs must take into consideration the Indigenous culture, the wants and needs of this population, and avoid the continuous impositions of Euro-centric ideals which are only a reminder of the harms against their people rather than a source of improvement in their lives. 

Transwomen

Transwomen face discrimination and oppression that is different from those faced by cisgender women. Transwomen who experience homelessness are at a higher risk of violence. This violence was not only found to be a cause of homelessness, but it also occurred at a higher rate throughout their lives and during their experience of homelessness.

Additionally, transwomen face transphobia. They may be rejected from their family, friends, and society in general. In the book, Where Am I Going to Go?,  it is reported that family conflict, after an individual comes out, is the most common reason for homelessness among trans youth. Transwomen are found to be at a higher risk of mental disorders than the general population because of the discrimination they face.

Oftentimes, transgender or non-binary individuals are left out of research. When checking off intake forms, staff tend check off which gender they perceive the individual to be, or group them into other, which leaves some individuals underrepresented.

Programming and policy, should address the higher incidence of violence against transwomen, by creating safer environments. Additionally, the research that informs policy and programming, must take into consideration the need for social supports or counselling, which results from societal rejection. To do this, they must include trans populations as a unique group within their research.

Mothers

Women across the globe are significantly more likely to be single parents than men. While they require more of an income due to extra dependents, they tend to be financially insecure instead. In Canada, a family headed by a lone-female, on average, has only about 50% of the income of a family headed by a lone-male.

It was revealed, by Vlemenickx and Smeeding, that the rates of impoverishment among single mothers in Canada is 2.37 times the rates among single fathers. Connected to this discovery, a study by the Homelessness Partnering Strategy found that about 7% of single parent males in Canada experience homelessness compared to 21% of single parent females.

The Pew Research Centre found that Mothers are more likely to sacrifice work advancement for family matters such as child-rearing. They are more likely than fathers to quit their jobs or take significant time off work for family reasons.  In addition, mothers, more often than fathers, report that being a parent has made it difficult to advance in their careers; leaving them at a financial disadvantage.   

Policy and programming efforts to increase opportunities within the workplace, equal pay for equal work, and accessible childcare would be ideal to prevent poverty and homelessness among mothers. 

Final Note

Women who experience homelessness and additionally: experience violence, are living with disabilities, or those who are transwomen, mothers or Indigenous, all require different programs and policies to support their needs and breakout of homelessness and poverty. 

While we only touched on a small portion of possible identities and obstacles, this overview illustrates the uniqueness of individual needs and experiences. The experience of homelessness is not universal, therefore policy and programming targeted at ending homelessness cannot be universal.

 

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
November 23, 2017

Can you believe it’s already been ten years?

We launched the Homeless Hub back in 2007, after seeing the success of the very first research conference on homelessness in Canada at York University. That event opened up a dialogue about improving access to research on homelessness for researchers, government representatives and the public.

Stephen Gaetz, President and CEO of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness talked about coming to the idea of the Homeless Hub after surveying people at that conference.

“We had a question about a research repository and people wanted more access to research…it’s really hard to get access to homelessness research because it’s not a discipline-based issue,” he said after the conference.

Determined to meet this need for more resources and information, a small team with a passion for research and ending homelessness launched the Homeless Hub website in 2007 with approximately 500 resources.

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In the decade that followed, the Homeless Hub has continued to be and remains a place where service providers, researchers, government representatives and the public can access and share research, stories and best practices. The original Homeless Hub logo was a house made of puzzle pieces with blank spaces to indicate gaps in homelessness research mirrors the gap we try to bridge through our work, an idea Stephen sketched on a napkin.

The New Homeless Hub logo
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 In honour of our tenth anniversary, we are relaunching our logo, which was designed by chance -- our Director of Communications, Steph Vasko, had used the symbol in a mock-up for our new website (to launch in early 2018 -- stay tuned!). Staff loved the simplicity of the design and its ability to represent many things: rooftops, direction, moving forward to preventing and ending homelessness in Canada.

Today, thanks to our followers, contributors and partners, the Homeless Hub hosts nearly 30,000 diverse resources on homelessness -- a massive leap from its initial library of 500.  

10 years of research 

Over the past 10 years, the COH has published research on a variety of topics, including youth homelessness, Indigenous homelessness, legal and justice issues, and homelessness prevention. These publications have been shared and implemented by communities both nationally and internationally. Below are some of our most influential works, all produced in collaboration with various organizations, academics, communities and people with lived experience of homelessness.

Here are some of the milestones that shaped the COH:

Calling for prevention

We, along with our partners, have been on the forefront of advocating for a conceptual shift from simply managing the problem of homelessness to a focus on prevention, and effective and sustainable exits from homelessness. The COH launched a A Framework for Homelessness Prevention earlier this year, which sets out to lay the groundwork for policy and practice shifts that will reduce the likelihood that individuals will experience homelessness. A youth homelessness prevention framework is currently in the works and will be available in early 2018. 

Defining homelessness

The COH also recognized that to develop collective solutions to homelessness, we need a consistent vocabulary to describe the issue. Released in 2012 and recently updated, the COH, in collaboration with dozens of partners, developed The Canadian Definition of Homelessness. The COH's definition intends to improve understanding, measurement and responses to homelessness in Canada by providing a common language for addressing this complex problem. The definition also recognizes that homelessness is more than a social problem; it's a human rights violation. Since then, we also released the Definition of Youth Homelessness in Canada, the Canadian Definition of Ending Homelessness and just last month, the Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada.

The State of Homelessness in Canada reports

In partnership with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, we published three State of Homelessness in Canada reports (2013, 2014, 2016). Within these reports, we estimate the national prevalence of homelessness and look critically at the progress that has been made locally, provincially and nationally over the course of a year. The State of Homelessness reports are widely regarded as the most reputable estimates of homelessness in Canada.

Advocating rights of youth experiencing homelessness

The COH has also been active in inspiring a global shift in how we respond to youth homelessness. In 2010, we published Surviving Crime and Violence: Street Youth and Victimization in Toronto. This report proved instrumental in its findings, indicating concerns not effectively addressed by the criminal justice and shelter systems. The following year, we released Can I see your ID? The Policing of Youth Homelessness in Toronto which looked at the problematic use of law enforcement as a way to address homelessness in Toronto. 

More recently, we conducted the largest ever pan-Canadian study on youth homelessness. With over 1,100 respondents, the National Youth Survey provides an unprecedented understanding of the experiences of homeless youth. The results of the survey lead to the creation of two policy briefs: Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness and Mental Health Care for Homeless Youth, along with extensive media coverage of the issue. This year, the COH continued its work on youth homelessness by publishing Where Am I Going to Go?: Intersectional Approaches to Ending LGBTQ2S Youth Homelessness in Canada and the U.S., a book that addresses the issues LGBTQ2S homeless youth experience.

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This is just a brief snapshot of the work we’ve produced in collaboration over the years. We strongly believe that research can, and should, contribute to solutions on homelessness. We look forward to continuing to be the place to access homelessness research and resources and thank you for contributing to the success of the Homeless Hub. Stay up to date by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
November 21, 2017

Does the term “demonstration project” excite and motivate you? It’s okay to say no. I’ll admit that I was inexperienced when it came to demonstration projects before joining the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (MTS) team. But now I feel pretty confident in saying that we at the MTS Lab are so excited to officially launch the first of our Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) demonstration projects this month. A lot of hard work has brought us to this point; without sounding too cliché, this is when the Lab goes from an “idea” to a system of community-based programs that directly impact the lives of vulnerable young people.

What is a demonstration project?

Let’s back up for a minute – what do I mean by a “demonstration project”? As I insinuated earlier, it is a research term. Demonstration projects are large-scale studies focused on a theory or concept that has already gone through an initial testing process to sort out any logistical and/or core issues. The focus of the demonstration project then is, as the name suggests, to demonstrate the value of the theory or concept by allowing as much relevant information as possible to be collected. This information is then evaluated by researchers and used to assess the effectiveness of the theory or concept.

Demonstration projects are a necessary step in evaluating program implementation and outcomes, which is what the MTS Lab is seeking to do with the HF4Y research trial. Not only do demonstration projects provide researchers with critical data about their theories, they also bridge the gap between theory and practice. For MTS, this means implementing actual programs in community settings. This allows both qualitative and quantitative analysis to take place at the same time, providing a well-rounded knowledge base.

Demonstration projects and pilot projects

Another admission – I used to believe that demonstration projects and pilot projects were basically the same thing. And in non-technical terms, pilot projects are fairly similar to demonstration projects: both are conducted to test theories in real-life scenarios. There are, however, significant differences between the two. Generally, pilot projects are small introductory studies to learn about key factors associated with research topics like time, costs, and size. Before researchers are able to conduct larger and longer studies – such as demonstration projects – they benefit from information gathered during the pilot project phase. Pilot projects contain assessments that are designed by researchers to see if what works in theory actually works in practice, sort of like a test drive for new concepts and approaches.

So, the differences are pretty clear – pilot projects test the waters of new, yet-to-be tested topics (for those of you in Toronto, the King Street pilot is a recent example) while demonstration projects are larger, longer studies of topics that have already gone through an initial screening phase. The evaluation process attached to demonstration projects is another major distinction.

Where does HF4Y fit in?

The demonstration project that we are launching next month in Ottawa – and in Toronto and Hamilton, beginning in 2018 – is designed for the HF4Y intervention. Although there has been other research done in the Housing First realm, this project is focused directly on espousing the value of the HF4Y model outlined in the new Program Model Guide. In each of our HF4Y projects, the evaluation of the impact of services and the overall program is being handled by a team of researchers. This research is a critical for establishing a strong evidence base for HF4Y in Canada which, as you might remember from an earlier post in this blog series, is one of the fundamental goals of the MTS Lab.

The HF4Y intervention is taking place at the agency level; in each community, different youth-serving organizations are partnering to provide housing and services to their youth clients – consistent with the HF4Y intervention model. Primarily, this means following the HF4Y core principles and especially promoting the voices and expertise of the youth involved throughout the process. In practical terms, it means that a number of young people who are either currently experiencing homelessness, or are at serious risk of becoming so, are going to be provided with housing and widespread supports to help them stay housed and achieve other critical outcomes focused on well-being and a healthy transition to adulthood.

Takeaways

This is an exciting time for the MTS Lab. We are not only launching the first of numerous demonstration projects that will yield valuable data for researchers, communities, and policy makers, but we are also on the cusp of taking real, practical steps to aid young people who need it. When all is said and done, we are working hard to ensure that all young people have exactly what we would want for our own children – the tools and supports they need to thrive.

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The “THIS is…” blog series is a monthly look into the concepts and ideas at the heart of the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab project. This blog is the third installment of the series; click to read the first and second installments.

How do we know the services and supports we provide to youth experiencing homelessness make their lives better in the long run? Any organization serving youth is prone to assume their interventions are making a difference. But how do we critically measure that impact? Do we open space for young people and their allies to identify the benchmarks on what an improved quality of life means to youth? How can we address evaluation differently, doing “nothing for youth without youth,” decolonizing our approaches, and building accountability into our communities?

A New Outcomes Framework  

These questions have become so important at Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, and we’ve noticed that other youth-serving partners in Toronto have been asking them as well. So Eva’s connected with the research and evaluation team at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to take a crack at developing a new outcome measurement framework for our work with youth experiencing homelessness. We started the process by reviewing of the literature on:

a) factors related to youth exiting homelessness; and

b) existing outcome frameworks.

We applied the learnings from the literature reviews to guide our exploration at Eva’s through: a focus group with youth residents at Eva’s transitional housing facility; a focus group and visioning session with Eva’s staff team members; and a consultation with Executive Directors of sister youth-serving agencies.

The voices of young people and their allies gave us valuable insights. For instance, when we asked youth what outcomes mattered to them, they certainly addressed financial and housing security. But they also mentioned that having a workplace free of racism and the ability to work out problems with their landlords were important to them too. It reminded us that youth don’t just need jobs and a place to live. They need quality, life-affirming engagement in employment, housing, and community.

Circle of Courage

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Along the way, we were inspired by the Circle of Courage model developed by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern (2007). It is a model of positive youth development focused on emotional health and well-being, integrating the wisdom of Indigenous teachings, the knowledge of professionals who’ve worked with youth, and youth development research. The model is a holistic one, incorporating an understanding of the individual in the context of community, and it identifies key domains that enable any young person to thrive: a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.

What We Developed

All of this groundwork allowed us to create our own new outcome measurement framework. You might be surprised by what it includes.

“You Can Only Give What You’ve Got” 

Our framework begins with an acknowledgement of organizational capacity to actually achieve outcomes, something we noticed is often a missing in the research and literature, but is a big concern of service providers. We also learned that organizational capacity and focus should be guided by the following principles: 

  1. Positive youth development
  2. Inclusion and respect for diversity
  3. Addressing systemic barriers (housing, employment, and education)
  4. Anti-oppression/anti-discrimination
  5. Harm reduction
  6. Therapeutic alliance (young people and their workers are a team that is only as good as the relationship they have)

“Youth Are Whole People, And They Matter”

Our framework also includes primary and secondary youth development outcomes that fall under the Circle of Courage’s domains of Belonging and Mastery/Independence.

Main outcomes:

  1. Connection to the Land and Culture;
  2. Social Relationships;
  3. Community Engagement/Belonging;
  4. Intrapersonal Growth; and
  5. Wellbeing (Physical and Mental).

Secondary outcomes: 

  1. Role Models;
  2. Leisure Activities;
  3. Safety;
  4. Employment;
  5. Education; and
  6. Financial Security.

Main outcomes are foundational to secondary outcomes; that is, if the main outcomes are achieved, the secondary outcomes will also emerge. For example, employment skills should be pursued in an empowering manner to build self-esteem. 

“Home is So Much More Than a Building” 

Finally, our framework incorporates a definition of “stable housing” developed by youth themselves. It includes the following components:

  1. a mix of housing options;
  2. financial security to maintain housing;
  3. preparedness to work with landlords;
  4. availability of supports;
  5. safety in one’s housing and belonging in one’s neighbourhood;
  6. quality housing;
  7. allowing for multiple moves;
  8. pet-friendly; and
  9. chosen by youth. 

Everything is Linked 

We learned that it’s a cycle: strong organizational capacity will lead to a growing sense of Belonging and Mastery/Independence within young people we work with, which will ultimately lead to stable housing, and all these things reinforce and bolster each other.

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What We’ve Learned and How You Can Help

Accurately capturing outcomes for youth that are meaningful, flexible, and youth-driven is complicated, but worth it! Still, we got the sense that even the most comprehensive outcomes framework cannot capture the unique identities and trajectories of young people in all their diversity. That’s why we know that, moving forward, we have to situate ourselves in a learning mindset, refining our outcome frameworks and ultimately listening to youth and their allies to set the agenda for us. 

We know we need to put this framework to the test to understand its true effectiveness. If you provide services for youth experiencing homelessness and have struggled with nailing down outcomes, will you consider working in partnership with Eva’s to test this approach?

Click here to access the full report, Youth at the Centre of Impact: Toward an Outcomes Measurement Framework

Circle of Courage image source: https://www.starr.org/training/youth/aboutcircleofcourage

Contact Eva’s: Andrea Gunraj, Director of Communications and Public Education, 416-977-4497 x141 | agunraj@evas.ca


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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.