The Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (MtS) is a project that is reimagining the way we approach youth homelessness through social innovation. MtS works to support a shift from ‘after-the-fact’ responses to youth homelessness, to approaches that prevent and quickly end a young person’s homelessness. Overall, our long-term goal is for young people to thrive – each making healthy transitions to adulthood at their own pace, strengthened by stable housing and necessary supports (including family and other natural supports).


MtS is a multi-year, collaborative initiative with stakeholders that span the national, provincial, Indigenous, and local levels as well as the public, private, and non-profit spheres. The initial investment is from the Government of Canada through its Youth Employment Strategy Program. MtS is co-led nationally by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada, along with support from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. Phase One (2017-2019) was launched in April 2017, with Phase Two planning now underway.  


A key objective of MtS is to establish an evidence base for prevention and early intervention measures (including Housing First for Youth), which can then be used to inform effective practice, policy, and investment. To do so, MtS is partnering with local service providers in 10 communities across Alberta and Ontario to develop and deliver 12 demonstration projects. Our national team is working closely with our partner agencies, providing ongoing support to program staff and monitoring the programs for research and evaluation purposes. Our focus is on developing clear outcomes measures that demonstrate interventions with positive impacts for young people, including on housing stability, health and wellness, educational engagement and achievement, and labour force participation.


During Phase One, over 1,300 young people and families will be supported by, and take part in these 12 MtS prevention, early intervention, and housing stabilization programs. Youth-serving agencies in Ottawa, Toronto, and Hamilton are delivering Housing First for Youth demonstration projects. Partner agencies in seven Alberta communities and in Toronto are building on prevention work consistent with a Family and Natural Supports program model. Finally, a prevention model known as Youth Reconnect is being tested through another demonstration project in Hamilton.


Through MtS, we will continue to take a fresh approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness by identifying, demonstrating, evaluating, mobilizing, and scaling innovations in policy and practice. We believe that if we work together – bringing practice, research, and evaluation to the forefront – we can dramatically shift the way we address youth homelessness.



“Homeless youth are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalized populations who face substantial barriers to education and employment. Assisting Canada’s youth is a priority. A Way Home: Working Together to End Youth Homelessness in Canada’s project is a concrete example of what we can achieve for youth by working in partnership with organizations across the country. Projects like this can give our youth the chance to change their future.” – Adam Vaughan, Member of Parliament for Spadina-Fort York

“Through a unique partnership with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (York University), MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, two provinces and dozens of community partners, the Making the Shift project will ensure that young people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness achieve housing stability and have natural supports such as family that are essential as they receive support to stay in school or access training and employment.” – Melanie Redman, Executive Director, A Way Home Canada

“This project will not only enable over a thousand homeless youth to access education and employment, but will provide us with a much stronger evidence base about how to prevent youth homelessness and support young people who do experience homelessness to exit this situation. It’s all about helping young people in a tough situation to move forward in their lives in a way that promotes wellness and the chance to succeed.” – Stephen Gaetz, Professor, York University and Director, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness



Phase One of this project is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Strategy program.