An Innovative National Community Uniting and Supporting Scholars With Lived Experience of Youth Homelessness

The last eight months have been packed with excitement and opportunities. LivEx had its first meet-up in February 2020 when a group of eight scholars with lived experience of youth homelessness came together to conceptualize and strategize the future directions of this new national community. Once we agreed upon a shared vision and values, LivEx engaged in conversations about our experiences of pursuing community work and research, with a focus on areas of such deep passion and significance to us and to the broader MtS network. We were in the process of building an empowered, peer-led community with lived expertise from which we could advocate for change and advise researchers and personnel working on the prevention of and sustained exit from youth homelessness.

With an engaged cohort of 16 scholars from across the country, ranging from undergraduate students to post-doctoral fellows and professors, LivEx has been successful at forming a community by us and for us. We have been able to support, mentor, and motivate each other in a variety of capacities as well as create safe spaces for us to gather and exchange ideas and shared experiences.

I have had the privilege to be involved in a number of notable experiences through LivEx: I accepted a position to sit on the steering committee, contributed to shared written work such as the LivEx COVID Diary, connected with internal and external mentors, participated in new learnings through webinars, accepted guest speaking and leadership opportunities, joined a writing and publishing group, and initiated a LivEx-led podcast project to be released in the near future. Several LivEx members are sitting on MtS Network advisory boards to guide the direction of the NCE, while others are moderating public webinars featuring renowned experts in policy and practice on youth homelessness prevention and sustained exits.

While LivEx members have participated in and led many unique sessions that have provided opportunities and learning, the most meaningful impact for me has been the connections that we have made as a LivEx community. I have gained the support and recognition from a community of exceptional and talented individuals who have shown me that our lived experience is of great value and that together our voice is strong in shifting the narrative and influencing research and policy that will lead to the elimination and prevention of youth homelessness.

The LivEx network has become a collective voice for scholars and researchers with lived experience. This unified voice is instrumental because we sit on boards and advise MtS funded network members and affiliates. As the first peer co-created LivEx network of its kind, we urge other people who have lived or living experience, no matter where they are on their academic journey, to follow the link or connect with us directly. This is an important and necessary academic network with an impressive community that was built by us and will continue to grow because of us.