Designing a prevention-based model for youth homelessness

In December 2018, Bridgeable staff selected alleviating and preventing youth homelessness as an organizational priority. Among other things, this meant choosing an organization to partner with in 2019 as part of Bridgeable’s annual pro bono project, also known as the Designership.

After a careful process of evaluation, Bridgeable contacted Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab, co-led Canadian Observatory of Homelessness (COH) and A Way Home Canada, and was excited to learn of their mutual interest in collaborating. 

These project partners came together and agreed on the mandate of alleviating and preventing youth homelessness. They wanted to determine whether Duty to Assist (DtA), a rights-based homelessness prevention model based on legislation that is proving successful in Wales, can be successfully administered in the Canadian context. Project partners decided to test key components of the Welsh model with youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Hamilton, Ontario. 

Bridgeable coordinated a project kickoff at the Bridgeable office on May 24 with the project partners. Kickoff participants completed a two-part activity led by Chad Story, Manager of Design Strategy at Bridgeable. The kickoff was intended to align stakeholders on project objectives, define roles, and inform research for the project. 

The first activity asked participants to imagine a world in which Duty to Assist is successfully implemented. What attitudes, behaviours, and services would exist in that world? Participants responded that, for example, youth experiencing homelessness would trust service providers and know where to go if they needed help. Services would consider the barriers uniquely faced by Indigenous, LGBTQ2S, and racialized youth.

Second, participants were asked what questions they had about the world in which DtA is successfully implemented. The session generated important questions that are informing Bridgeable’s research on the project. These included: How will political and community buy-in be achieved? What kind of training will frontline service workers undergo?

The workshop finished off with articulating a shared understanding of the project’s mission, which is to use a design approach to prototype and test key components of the Welsh Duty to Assist model to alleviate and prevent youth homelessness in Hamilton. Participants left the workshop looking forward to diving into the summer’s work.

On deck: The team will be conducting research in Hamilton. Check back next week to learn more about emerging themes.  



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