The thought of ending youth homelessness can feel like an impossible task given the overwhelming scope of the problem and its apparent complexity. However, a lot is known about effectively responding to youth homelessness. In this concluding chapter, we will focus on the role of prevention. And by prevention, we mean doing what we can to stop young people from becoming homeless in the first place, and when this is not possible, to ensure that the experience is short and that they do not become mired in homelessness or the street lifestyle.
While most people can easily comprehend the importance of prevention in reducing the harms of smoking, for instance, it is more challenging when thinking about preventing homelessness. What do we mean by prevention? What does prevention look like? This chapter summarizes some international research on effective prevention strategies, and identifies key factors that enable effective implementation. And, as we will see, prevention can mean many things. Preventive strategies can involve programming that strengthens protective factors amongst adolescents by enhancing engagement with school and building their problem solving and conflict resolution skills, for instance. Prevention also entails stopping the flow of young people from institutional care (child protection, mental health, corrections) into homelessness. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means designing and implementing effective early intervention strategies so that when young people become homeless (or are at imminent risk) they are given supports that either help them return home or move into new accommodation (with supports) in a safe and planned way.
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