Shifting to Prevention through Early Intervention

Youth homelessness prevention is defined as legislation, policies, and interventions that reduce the likelihood that a young person will experience homelessness.

Prevention means providing those who have been homeless with the necessary resources and supports to stabilize their housing, enhance integration and social inclusion, and ultimately reduce the risk of the recurrence of homelessness. The shift to prevention that our MtS advocates is supported by an emerging body of literature that demonstrates that prevention strategies have a positive impact on reducing homelessness. There is, however, a paucity of research demonstrating effective policy and program interventions that address youth homelessness specifically.

Research sub-themes

Enabling Successful Transitions from Public Institutions

Effective strategies to prevent youth homelessness means ensuring that young people are not discharged into homelessness when they leave the care of child protection (child welfare) services, or institutional settings associated with corrections, mental health, or in-patient health care, with no familial home to return to. We will test and adapt learnings from jurisdictions – particularly in international contexts – that have developed effective policy-driven program models and interventions that support better transitions from public institutions.

School-based Intervention Programs

Such programs seek to identify young people who are at risk of homelessness, dropping out of school and/or experiencing significant and negative life-altering circumstances, and provide the necessary supports to reduce these risks, strengthen families, and keep youth within their communities. The most effective school-based early intervention initiatives involve partnerships between community organizations serving youth and their families, and schools.

Early Intervention, Shelter Diversion, and Place-based Supports

This refers to policy-driven strategies designed to address the immediate risk of homelessness, provide young people and their families with necessary supports, and importantly, enhance resilience while reducing the potential for negative outcomes. Such strategies focus on addressing the physical, emotional, material, interpersonal, and educational needs of young people through the provision of supports to youth and their families that either help them to return home, preserve existing housing, or move into new accommodation (with supports) in a safe and planned way.

Hidden Homelessness and Vulnerable Sub-populations

Many young people who experience homelessness do not immediately or may never show up in the shelter system, either because they live in places where there are no emergency services, or because they avoid them. Young people in all these situations experience vulnerability as they are not able to access supports that may help them escape housing precarity and potentially exploitation including sex trafficking. Designing policy and preventive interventions that work for populations experiencing hidden homelessness or vulnerability is an important focus of the work of MtS.

Prevention Policy and Practice Within and Beyond the Homelessness Sector

While community-based delivery of prevention supports is necessary to meet local needs, preventing and ending youth homelessness will require government investment and an overarching policy framework to ensure the success of community-based interventions.