Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab’s demonstration projects (MtS DEMS) have been working to identify, develop, test, evaluate, and mobilize innovations in policy and practice that support the prevention and facilitation of sustainable exits from homelessness.

Co-led by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) with funding from the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, MtS DEMS has implemented four large-scale demonstration projects in communities across Canada:

1.    Housing First for Youth (HF4Y)
2.    Youth Reconnect (YR)
3.    Family and Natural Supports (FNS)
4.    Upstream 

Each of these demonstration projects incorporates strong program models and service design, that support the research process and the evaluation outcomes. 
Knowledge mobilization activities are key to MtS DEMS. These efforts ensure that research findings and learnings inform the work being done on the front line in “real-time”.

Knowledge mobilization activities are key to MtS DEMS. These efforts ensure that research findings and learnings inform the work being done on the front line in “real-time”.

This blog explores the MtS DEMS research highlights and outputs from the past year:

1.    Blogs 

a.    Exploring the Youth Reconnect Program Model: MtS DEMs researchers wrote a blog entitled, Keeping Youth Off the Streets: Lessons Learned from Good Shepherd Centre’s Youth Reconnect Program. This program provides youth who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness immediate access to support that will stabilize their housing and assist them in creating and strengthening connections with their families, education systems, and communities. 

b.    Prototyping a HF4Y Aftercare support model: We reflected on Prototyping and Evaluating a HF4Y Aftercare Support Model. This blog suggested that HF4Y aftercare is an important aspect of determining the ongoing needs of young people, especially as they attempt to navigate systems independently.

c.    Detailing what HF4Y is NOT: We published a blog exploring how HF4Y is different from the Housing First model, and why understanding the distinction between the two is important for organizations, governments, and funders interested in implementing HF4Y programs within their communities.

d.    Advocating for investments in 2SLGBTQ+-specific services: We wrote a blog to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pride Toronto. We highlighted some key successes of the movement while reminding readers there is still a significant need to develop sector-wide policies and guidelines to support 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. We stressed the need to develop 2SLGBTQ+-specific housing and services that address the intersecting identities of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.

2.    Program Guides 

a.    Implementing Housing First for Youth: In April, the new Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) Operations Manual was released. This manual provides practical guidance on how to implement HF4Y. It touches upon several areas, including case management, supervision, community planning, and designing youth-focused service supports. The manual is intended for service providers and community planners who may be interested in the operational aspects of HF4Y. 

b.    In July, the updated HF4Y Program Model Guide was released. In its third iteration, the guide provides an overview of the research, principles, and philosophy of the HF4Y model. The key takeaway is that HF4Y builds on many of the best practices of the adult model of Housing First, but was specifically designed to support the distinct needs of adolescents transitioning into adulthood.

c.    Adapting HF4Y for Indigenous Youth: In September, we began analyzing narrative interviews completed with young people and program staff of the Endaayaang HF4Y program in Hamilton, Ontario. The Endaayaang program aims to empower Indigenous youth by finding them a home. This is achieved by helping youth to rewrite their own stories and identities through reconnection to their culture. The interview analysis will help to inform the creation of a culturally-based Indigenous housing program model guide, set to be released in 2022!

3.    Research outputs

a.    Building Youth’s Social Networks: The MtS DEMs research team developed a research brief entitled, Support Systems for Youth: How to Maximize Youth’s Networks in Prevention Efforts. The goal of this brief was to understand how building social networks affected youth who are at-risk of homelessness. This research brief also shares recommendations on how to strengthen these key relationships and better support youth at-risk. It is the second brief released as part of the MtS DEMs research brief series on youth homelessness prevention established in 2020 to build stronger links between research and practice. Topics featured within the research brief series are based on identified needs and interests from MtS DEMS Communities of Practice (CoP) and then refined based on the literature across different fields such as prevention, social services, health, and homelessness. 

b.    Presenting MtS DEMS research nationally and internationally: In October, members from our research and practice teams worked together to present at the International Housing First Conference and Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) Conference about HF4Y, Aftercare, and MtS DEMS more broadly. Although we missed getting to be with conference-goers in person, the virtual platforms offered opportunities for connections, learning, and sharing with folks from Canada, North America, and beyond!

c.    Examining the link between Child Protection Services and Youth Homelessness: In December, we published an article entitled Child Protection Services and Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Findings of the 2019 National Youth Homelessness Survey in Canada. It drew from the 2019 National Youth Homelessness Survey, which included the voices of 1,374 young people who experienced homelessness in 49 communities across Canada to determine findings. This study found that youth who interacted with CPS often experience homelessness at an earlier age.

Looking Ahead:

We are excited about the research we are going to develop in 2022. 

The first thing we are working on this year is administering the FNS/YR outcomes evaluation. The new online surveys for FNS and YR program participants and their family members are being shared with operating community sites later this month. The surveys will be used to help the research team assess how young people’s lives are shaped by factors such as housing stability, school and work, relationships with family members, social connections, and conflict and resolution management. 

If you have any questions about the research conducted in 2021, please contact COH’s Post-Doctoral Fellow, Karen Naidoo at