Canadian Thanksgiving just passed. As an American I’m still a bit perplexed at the timing of this wonderful holiday, but it does make sense to align it with the actual harvest. Well done, Canada. So, what am I thankful for? I can’t help but be incredibly thankful for the leadership, passion, vision and hard work communities across the country are bringing to the table to get the job of preventing and ending youth homelessness done, once and for all.
Last week Dr. Stephen Gaetz and I had the privilege to help launch A Way Home Lanark County at a catalyst event in Perth, ON. (Check out the local radio interview we did that day along with Terrilee Kelford.) We’re also heading out later today to Winnipeg to help launch their community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness. These events and some other work we’re doing to kickstart communities across the country made me take pause to really think through community readiness. We included a section on planning readiness in our Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit, so feel free to deep-dive there, but the critical ingredients I keep coming back to are leadership and community climate.
Does your community have a critical mass of folks from within the youth serving sector but also from outside of the sector that feel a sense of urgency and even outrage that young people would be forced to spend any amount of time mired in homelessness? Do you have leadership emerging from likely, but also unlikely places to make something happen? I asked Lanark County’s Terrilee Kelford, Vice-Chair of Cornerstone Landing Youth Services, to weigh in on the issue of readiness. “Engaging people in a discussion about ending youth homelessness is easy. People want to help. Pulling people together to talk about community partnerships, system navigation, filling the gaps in services, central intakes and common data collection strategies, those are the tough conversations. You know your community is ready, when it’s willing to work together on those issues. Lanark County is ready and excited to Launch A Way Home!!”
So that begs another question: What does it mean to launch A Way Home in your community? I have to say that it has been wonderfully overwhelming to see the global uptake of the A Way Home name and vision, but it’s important to hone in on just what folks are signing on to. There are two critical elements about A Way Home that translate across national, provincial/territorial and state borders. The first is a commitment to working differently across sector silos for true systems change. With A Way Home Canada, we utilize Collective Impact to bring folks to the table and get things done. The second, and arguably the most important element of A Way Home, is a passion for prevention and doing the hard work of figuring out what works in terms of stopping the flow of young people into homelessness, and if they do become homeless, ensuring that we prevent them from ever becoming homeless again.
So, if your community has the leadership and a climate that will enable you to get things done, join us in this international movement for change to ensure every young person has what they deserve - a real home with all the supports we would give to our own children. To quote the youth in Kamloops, BC that came up with the name A Way Home, “There is more than one way home and home means different things to different people,” so let’s help them find it.
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.