The Upstream Project is a school-based program focused on youth homelessness prevention. Why schools? Because virtually every young person who becomes homeless was in school at one point, and very likely was in contact with an adult who knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to help.

This program has been collaboratively developed by Raising the Roof, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), and A Way Home Canada to suit the Canadian context.

Through a three-phase approach, The Upstream Project adapts the innovative evidence-based model from Australia’s The Geelong Project. These three phases are:

  1. Identifying and accessing youth using the proven screening method: The Students Needs Assessment;
  2. Connecting youth to services and providing wrap around case management to identified youth and their families;
  3. Measurement and replication: upon comprehensive program evaluation The Upstream Project will be replicated in communities across Canada.

When people first learn about The Geelong Project, they are often drawn in by the survey tool: a risk assessment completed by students directly in their classrooms. The survey on its own is a very exciting innovation, providing an incredible opportunity to gather data on the growing issue of youth homelessness.

In my role as Project Manager for The Upstream Project, however, I have discovered a deeper value of the survey tool. In championing the survey, we have been given an invaluable opportunity to engage in dialogue with school board administrations on how to address youth homelessness, together. 

the upstream project
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A core objective of The Geelong Project is to be responsive to the needs of youth in their communities and thus, reform systems to address their needs. In the Canadian context, we have begun this work be creating connections with school boards in two pilot communities: Niagara and York Region. By working in collaboration with the school boards to spearhead The Upstream Project, we have ignited a system reform process at the ground-level.

While the ultimate goal of The Upstream Project is to prevent youth homelessness, there are several key success indicators. The program aims to increase school engagement, secondary school graduation rates, and ensure access to safe, secure housing. A reduction of family breakdown, dropping out of school, and involvement in crime are aligned objectives.

This ambitious goal will in no doubt require a unified community response. With the support of local school boards, municipal partners and local community agencies, The Upstream Project will act as a catalyst for impactful service reform to take place at the community level.

In my presentation at the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness, I will discuss The Upstream Project model in detail. This will include a description of the methodology and projected outcomes of the program, a ‘sneak peek’ at a toolkit being developed by COH to provide communities with the necessary resources to implement the program, and early learnings from 360˚kids and The RAFT, the two community agencies piloting The Upstream Project beginning in September 2016.

I look forward to sharing the journey of The Upstream Project to-date and engaging with thought leaders and innovators on how we can come together to create real impact in communities across the country.

This blog post is part of our series which highlights sessions of the 2016 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Hear Elisa Traficante speak on Thursday, November 3rd at 3:30PM on the topic of ending youth homelessness through prevention and early interventions. Learn more about this upcoming conference presented by CAEH.