Research to Practice

Across MtS DEMS, we are landing on important learning that will continue to inform policy, planning, and practice. It is this knowledge base that will allow us to better serve young people leading to better outcomes – such as greater participation in education, employment, and training.

What is Research to Practice?

In demonstration projects, design thinking contributes to ensuring a strong link between research and practice in program development and in honing the effectiveness of interventions. Research is not seen as separate from practice, but rather as embedded within it, thus contributing to community learning and systems transformation.

Research to Practice

The iterative relationship between research and practice and practice produces better outcomes through effective engagement and valuing different kinds of knowledge and contributions.

Project Design

This means rigorous planning, implementation, and testing of a policy, program, or intervention in real time. The design process involves background research, expert consultation, application of research, and engagement with people with lived experience of youth homelessness in order to build a new program theory, logic model, and materials to achieve positive results.

Building evidence-based programs and strengthening program models through research and evaluation cycles, using a mixed methods focus:

This includes outcomes evaluation, which tests whether the policy, program or intervention is actually achieving its intended social and psychosocial impacts on well-being. Developmental evaluation is designed to enhance our understanding of how a new project takes shape, evolves, and adapts in complex environments. Research informs practice and practice informs research in order to contribute to the continuous improvement of the intervention.
MtS DEMS is currently conducting longitudinal studies on Housing First for Youth, Enhancing Family and Natural Supports, and Youth Reconnect interventions using a mixed methods research design, which includes both qualitative and quantitative measures, as well as rigorous evaluation techniques. We are focused on developing clear outcomes measures that demonstrate positive impacts on young people, including housing stability, health and wellness, and educational engagement and achievement. We are also conducting developmental evaluation on all demonstration projects in each community. The goal is to document the ongoing processes of adaptation and innovation of the programs. In this evaluation, we are speaking with key program stakeholders and reviewing program documentation. The value of the evaluation component of our demonstration projects cannot be stressed enough. We need to know if and how each of the program models deliver effective outcomes for youth, what the strengths and limitations of each model are, and how these programs can be scaled out to new communities.

To determine if the programs are being implemented as intended, we are focusing on two main objectives:

  • Determining the most important program components
  • Determining the strengths and weaknesses of implementation of the program components for the purpose of program improvement

Significant resources are dedicated to evaluating and testing program outcomes in each of the three program interventions. The Ottawa and Toronto HF4Y programs are using a Randomized Controlled Trial methodology to test the impact of HF4Y by comparing the outcomes of a group of youth who receive the intervention (HF4Y) against a group of youth with similar characteristics who do not. Having the “usual services” group allows us to directly compare the experiences of the HF4Y participants to those who receive other housing supports.

Indigenous-Led Research

The Hamilton HF4Y program is Indigenous-led for Indigenous youth. It implements the core elements of the classic HF4Y model while addressing the unique needs of Indigenous youth. The program is named “Endaayaang”, meaning “our home” in Ojibwe. Grounding the Endaayaang research partnership and process in culture is a central act of empowering our Indigenous partners to lead the work and to provide valid engagement and meaning to all aspects of the work.

The research on Endaayaang is also Indigenous led, supported through the MtS Indigenous Advisory Group, with leadership from the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health at University of Toronto.

Model Fidelity Testing

Each MtS DEMS site is undergoing fidelity testing to determine how closely each site is adhering to the standards set out in the program models. This fidelity testing is done by identifying the core activities of each program and measuring how they map onto the program model. We can then determine where improvements (if any) must be made.

Achieving Better Outcomes for Young People

The goal of evaluating outcomes is to assess the impact of a program on changes that take place at an individual and group level, based on the intervention. For all of the projects, quantitative data will be gathered from surveys and closed interview data. These interviews will take place with youth across all programs and will provide new ideas about how to think more broadly about addressing youth homelessness and youth-specific needs.

Outcomes focus areas:

  • Housing stability
  • Health and well-being
  • Education and employment
  • Complementary supports
  • Social inclusion

The intended overall outcomes for all MtS DEMS projects are:

  • 1,300 youth will be supported throughout the sites;
  • 70% of participants will be employed/self-employed and/or returned to school (30% will be neither employed nor returned to school);
  • 80% of participants will achieve housing stability;
  • 50% of participants will have improved health and wellbeing;
  • 50% of participants will have strengthened family and community relations;
  • 90% of participants will have enhanced their Essential Skills;


The Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab is a partnership between A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness with the support of MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. Phase One of MtS DEMS (2017-2020) has been funded by the Government of Canada through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS).