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Demonstration Lab

Demonstration Projects (DEMS) are an integral part of the Making the Shift research to impact cycle. Funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, the demonstration projects identify, develop, test, evaluate, and mobilize innovations in policy and practice that support the prevention and facilitation of sustainable exits from homelessness.

What are demonstration projects?

Demonstration projects blend experimental program delivery with research and evaluation. Employing design thinking, our demonstration projects are intended to expand our knowledge and understanding of innovative approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness by identifying, developing, prototyping, testing, evaluating, and mobilizing innovations in policy and practice through the implementation of comprehensive demonstration projects.

All demonstration projects involve robust program model and service design, as well as robust research and evaluation (process and outcomes). They allow for key lessons to come forward by answering questions such as: are the needs of the target demographic being adequately met? What program adaptations might be needed? What can others learn from this intervention? Answers to these questions provide practitioners and researchers critical data about their theories and practice.

Through the MtS Demonstration Projects, we have implemented various prevention programs in community settings and are conducting qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Each community site has a specific focus, and three sites have dedicated research and evaluation teams that collect feedback from program participants and staff. The national team closely monitors and guides the research and evaluation work being done at the community sites.

To date, we have focused on four distinct program models, each representing a form of prevention as defined in the The Roadmap for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness, including early intervention, housing stability, and sustained exists from homelessness (Gaetz et al., 2018):

A community-based early intervention and prevention program, YR provides supports for young people aged 13 to 24 years (and their families) who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and their families. Young people are engaged through schools or other community services, in an effort to meet them “where they are at”. The goal of Youth Reconnect is to help young people stay connected to their family, community and school, and strengthen connections to natural supports in order to reduce the risk of homelessness. Our demonstration project in Hamilton is helping to transform the youth homelessness system to focus on younger youth and their families at the point of crisis, thus preventing them from entering the youth homelessness shelter.

Youth Reconnect Guide

A rights-based intervention for youth who are experiencing, or at risk of homelessness, HF4Y focuses on providing housing and client centred supports without preconditions in order to enhance stabilization. It is an adaptation of the adult Pathways Housing First model, with added provisions for the specific needs of developing adolescents and young adults. We have three demonstration projects on Housing First for Youth. The Ottawa project has a special focus on youth with moderate acuity. In Hamilton, the project is Indigenous-led for Indigenous youth, and includes important programmatic elements focused on cultural reconnection and healing. The Toronto Housing First for Youth project focuses on youth exiting care.

Housing First for Youth Guide

Emphasizing the important role that family and adult supports can and should play in all young people’s lives, FNS is a program and/or intervention designed to prevent or end a young person’s experience of homelessness through strengthening relationships between vulnerable young people and their support networks, including family. We have 7 FNS projects across Alberta and one in Toronto. In each community the program is adapted for the local context and homelessness system (or lack thereof). The Toronto project is unique in that it works in partnership across the whole youth homelessness system to ensure that every young person that touches the system is offered these important supports.

Enhancing Family and Natural Supports Guide

The Upstream Project Canada (TUPC) supports communities in a prevention-focused approach to addressing youth homelessness through school-based early intervention. Originating in Australia, this initiative works to prevent and eliminate youth homelessness through the collective efforts of schools and communities. The approach is to identify young people at risk of homelessness and school disengagement through a universal screening tool known as the Student Needs Assessment (SNA) and provide them and their families with a suite of supports. Upstream is not funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.

TUPC is an equity-focused intervention that responds to the growing interest among communities across Canada to reform the way youth homelessness is addressed – through collective, multisectoral prevention efforts. Currently, we are working with our community demonstration sites to develop a model that is adaptable and sustainable as we look to scale TUPC towards systems change.

Upstream Guide

In addition to these four program models, Making the Shift is also piloting an intervention called Duty to Assist, which is not funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.

When young people are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, there are typically adults in their lives who know what is going on, but don’t know what to do. Duty to Assist is the Canadian term for the adaptation of a highly innovative approach to homelessness prevention that originated in Wales and is also being applied in England. In those contexts, Duty to Assist means there is a statutory obligation, or a legal duty, requiring local authorities to make reasonable efforts to end the person’s homelessness or stabilize their housing. In adapting the model for the needs of young people, we envision that meaningful adults in the lives of young people — teachers, coaches, doctors and nurses, community workers — could be equipped to connect young people to key support services such as Youth Reconnect. The goal of Duty to Assist is to help support young people (as young as 13) and their families to help address underlying issues and keep young people in place in their communities and connected to school and in some cases employment. We have taken preliminary steps to consider how Duty to Assist can be adapted to the Canadian context, what the service design should look like, and through engagement with community partners, are doing the groundwork to launch a pilot demonstration project in Hamilton Ontario.

Demonstration Sites

There are currently 15 projects in 12 communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario that are taking part.

Toronto

Housing First for Youth

Hamilton

Housing First for Youth

Kelowna

Housing First for Youth

Hamilton

Youth Reconnect

Toronto

Family and Natural Supports

Calgary

Family and Natural Supports

Lethbridge

Family and Natural Supports

Fort McMurray

Family and Natural Supports

Grande Prairie

Family and Natural Supports

Medicine Hat

Family and Natural Supports

St. John’s

Upstream