Coming of Age: Reimagining a Response to Youth Homelessness

Thanks to everyone that attended Vancouver Foundation’s community conversation on October 15, 2014. To continue and expand the conversation, members of our Youth Advisory Committee prepared the following summary.

We invite you to think about your own take-away messages, and the questions that you may have. There will be opportunities over the next few months to delve into some of these issues more deeply, and to explore them via the work that each of you are doing in your own communities.

What we asked

Our community conversation introduced Dr. Stephen Gaetz, Professor, Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto; Director, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness; President, Raising the Roof, and featured responses by Kali Sedgemore, Ashley Crossan, Rebecca Bell, and Patrick Stewart.

Learning questions addressed:

1. What are the most appropriate housing options for young people leaving care? 

2. How can the risk of homelessness among young people be reduced?


Take-away thoughts 

  • We need to be cognizant of the time it takes to grow up. Time delimited services are out of sync with the way that young people grow up.
  • Every young person is in transition to adulthood, no matter where they live, who their parents are, etc.
  • We want young people to transition to adulthood, not transition to independence.
  • Homeless young people need different housing options than adults, and they need choice. Optimal choices include:
    - Return home
    - Permanent supported Housing
    - Transitional housing (either congregate or separate units)
    - Independent living (scattered site)

We must work with schools to prevent youth homelessness. Teachers know when there is a problem, but they don’t always know what to do about it.

Rebecca Bell: Young people need more chances to settle into stable housing, and this is challenging for service providers.

Kali and Ashley: Young people need meaningful activities, social relationships, community engagement and cultural engagement. This is also challenging for service providers.

Patrick Stewart: Grappling with housing first for aboriginal community. Implementing a ‘no wrong door policy‘.

Questions and Comments

The challenges in Vancouver include a lack of coordinated response, multiple municipalities, and multiple health authorities.

Helpful framing: Affordable housing is an issue that affects everyone. We need to work with smaller, more innovative developers to come up with solutions.

What are the implications of the above for your program and the services you currently offer to young people?

What else would you like to know?


Rad Resources:

Coming of Age: Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness in Canada - Includes a report, some infographics, and even a podcast.

Alberta Plan to End Youth Homelessness -