It is estimated that between 150,000 to 200,000 Canadians are homeless, and tragically at least 20 percent of them are between the ages of 16 and 24 [i]. Beyond the well-being, safety and security of the individuals involved and the wasted potential for society, the support, policing, health and other costs associated with homeless youth far outweigh the costs of effective preventative and remedial action. Homeless youth do not want to be on the street and caring Canadians need to play a greater role to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness.
The National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness, Eva’s Initiatives and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, with funding from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation are in their second year of a bold new program to support communities to address this challenge. The Mobilizing Local Capacity Program is a major national effort to significantly change the course of youth homelessness locally and across the country. Over a five-year period, the Program will draw on the resources of this unique partnership to:
- Build community awareness about youth homelessness
- Support and assist communities to develop and implement plans that will prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness
- Facilitate linkages and foster effective networks and collective action to combat youth homelessness
- Promote systemic change to Canadian public policies impacting on youth homelessness
The program has two main components: Building Local Capacity and Systemic Public Policy Change.
Building Local Community Capacity & Knowledge Sharing
This component is focused on supporting two small or medium sized communities per year to develop strategic plans to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness. It will provide local communities with resources that encourage community exchanges, training, link them with other communities and resources and the sharing of promising practices locally and nationally. Lessons learned each year will be combined with program partners’ existing experience to equip a growing network of communities with templates, tools and resources for community action to end youth homelessness.
In year 2 of the program, the MLC program is excited to be working with Saint John, N.B. and Wellington County, ON The Saint John Human Development Council and The Community Resource Centre of North and Centre Wellington are providing leadership between their respective communities and the MLC Program.
They join our year 1 communities of Kamloops, BC led by the City of Kamloops and Kingston, ON led by the United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington. Year 1 communities are midway through the development of their plans to end youth homelessness. The MLC program partners (Eva’s Initiatives, the Canadian Housing Renewal Association and the Catherine Donnelly Foundation) and Steering Committee are committed to expanding their work with small and medium-sized communities across the diverse regions of Canada throughout the length of the program.
Systemic Change to Public Policies on Youth Homelessness
All levels of government, the community and the corporate sector all have a role to play in ending youth homelessness. Municipal, regional, provincial/territorial and federal governments have a responsibility to provide leadership on this issue. The existing patchwork of policies and programs across the country for youth experiencing homelessness is a barrier to preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness and to adequately house youth in Canada. Young people must be able to access safe, secure, appropriate and adequate housing.
Currently the federal government has no policy framework on youth homelessness, despite the distinct causes of and solutions to the problem. Existing systems – including child welfare, mental health, criminal justice systems, and others – must be transformed and integrated to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness. These systems need to work together to provide effective and seamless supports. A review of existing programs and policies through a “youth lens” can help to eliminate service gaps.
The MLC Program will encourage policies and strategies to promote and support transformative change within government services at all levels and in many areas to end youth homelessness in Canada. Collaborative action across various networks will bring together other partners and sponsors in a comprehensive movement to change public policy to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness in Canada.
For inquiries contact:
Melanie Redman – Director, National Initiatives Program, Eva’s Initiatives
Toronto, Ontario firstname.lastname@example.org | 416-364-4716, x246
[i] Stephen Gaetz, Jesse Donaldson, Tim Richter, & Tanya Gulliver (2013): The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.
The National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness was founded in 2006 and is a collaborative forum working to build capacity within the youth serving sector and raise awareness of youth homelessness in Canada. Its member organizations work with over 14,000 homeless and at risk young people a year and represent communities from coast to coast.