Housing Stabilization & Tertiary Prevention

There is extensive evidence from Canada and abroad that demonstrates that, while housing stability is necessary for most youth experiencing homelessness to improve their health and life circumstances, it is not sufficient in and of itself to do so. For most, without additional wraparound supports, there is a high risk of re-entering homelessness, sustained mental and physical health challenges, social isolation, and limited success in improving quality of life in a range of areas such as employment, education, and community engagement. Interventions at the time of the transition to housing, out of homelessness, can be considered either “housing stabilization” or “tertiary prevention” – they are preventative in that they are designed to prevent a return to homelessness.

The interventions needed in this transitional period typically need to cover several needs. These needs include mental health needs that are often complex, needs with respect to navigating a range of independent living challenges along with justice, employment, education and housing systems, and needs for social engagement and the support of peers.

There is also a cultural overlay to the specific needs of youth from stigmatized and marginalized communities. For youth of Indigenous origin, specific considerations include access to cultural supports including elders and staff who share in Indigenous value systems, an emphasis in culturally-based language used in the provision of all wrap-around supports, as well as staff recognition that many Indigenous youth have developed distrust in service providers through difficult childhood experiences in care.

Providing this range of supports in an integrated and cohesive way usually requires a team that includes multiple disciplines and usually will require a multi-organization collaboration to deliver effectively. Ideally this work is largely done in the community and in spaces that are otherwise not homeless youth service spaces. Such interventions are not meant to replace other services – they are meant to be time-limited: serving as a bridge to other resources. If this isn’t managed effectively the stabilization service will quickly fill up and close to many who need it.

The intended impacts of this model of intervention are outlined below: 

Theory of Change graphic


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