The Opportunity Project: Telling a New Story About Youth Homelessness in Ottawa

Everyday, there are hundreds of youth in Ottawa without a safe place to stay. They may be leaving home due to violent situations, struggling with mental health challenges, or simply be unable to find housing. In a community as wealthy as Ottawa, we can change this. A Way Home Ottawa is doing just that.

A Way Home Ottawa is a local coalition, convened by the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa, shaped and led by youth with lived experience of homelessness, in partnership with agencies supporting youth who are homeless or at risk. After receiving 75 applicants, 7 young people were hired to form the Youth Liaison Team. Once this happened, the momentum of A Way Home Ottawa really took off.

Guided by the expertise of Dr. Jackie Kennelley and Justin Langille of Carleton University’s Sociology and Anthropology Department, A Way Home Ottawa embarked on a robust qualitative research process about youth homelessness in our community. We outlined 18 different areas of expertise to engage. This resulted in running interviews and focus groups with over 70 youth with lived experience of homelessness and 50 staff members, working with youth dealing with homelessness.

Their voices and ideas are the core of how we want to move forward to prevent and end youth homelessness in Ottawa. Based on the housing first principles for youth, we developed 5 major recommendations for Ottawa: 

  1. Drastically increase options for housing that is affordable - by increasing opportunities to access private market rental units for young people through housing subsidies, by increasing the availability of affordable units dedicated to youth, and by increasing income through income support programs.
  2. Effective implementation of housing as a human right for homeless and at-risk youth, that prioritizes financial stability, and in turn housing stability, through consistent, understanding, and flexible responses from municipal and provincial programs.
  3. Homeless and at-risk youth need a variety of resources focused on supporting their development into adulthood, including connection and access to opportunities for education, employment, and life-skills development.
  4. Youth require a streamlined service referral process between agencies to ensure every youth retains consistent support as needed and requested by them. Youth also require increased access to supports outside of the downtown core, with a particular emphasis on school-based assessment and early intervention in order to meet youth where they are at.
  5. Youth who are homeless and at risk of homelessness require support in gaining access to social and recreational community engagement that can enable their longterm mental and physical well being.
Publication Date: 
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada