By Melanie Redman, Executive Director, A Way Home Canada

I am pleased to announce the launch of a free and open-source online resource to support communities and planners in their quests to develop and implement comprehensive plans to prevent and end youth homelessness, the Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit.

So what’s this Toolkit all about? Communities across Canada and the U.S. are recognizing the need for targeted strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness. I might be preaching to the choir on this, but the causes and conditions of youth homelessness are unique, and so must be the solutions. These community plans specific to youth homelessness must align with plans to end homelessness as well as other existing plans such as poverty reduction strategies.

Given that communities are recognizing the importance of developing and then doing the really sticky work of implementing these plans, it makes sense to help communities go further faster by drawing on the collective learning from Canada and the U.S. The Toolkit includes learning from communities such as Kamloops, Edmonton, Kingston, and Seattle, as well as the Government of Alberta and the State of Minnesota. It provides resources and a step-by-step approach to facilitate plan development, incorporating a long-term focus and placing emphasis on the importance of prevention and Housing First for Youth.

The Toolkit also encourages a Collective Impact approach with community planning tables to ensure that those who can impact the systems that drive young people into homelessness are meaningfully engaged. It encourages the inclusion of ‘unusual suspects’ such as landlords, police, and the business community. Everyone has a stake in ensuring young people are supported to make healthy transitions into adulthood, and thus we cannot place the responsibility solely on the homeless youth-serving sector to prevent and end youth homelessness.

While the Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit is a fantastic resource for organizations and individuals working to develop a plan to end youth homelessness in their communities, it does not aim to ‘reinvent the wheel’. Rather, the Toolkit points readers to resources that are readily available (when appropriate), drawing on existing materials throughout. The Toolkit is also not a ‘plan in the box,’ but instead offers a systematic approach for how to get to a comprehensive strategy and who to engage along the way.

The Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit was developed by A Way Home Canada with support from the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and with funding support from the Province of Ontario. The Toolkit contains a special Appendix that speaks to the unique Service Manager structure in Ontario and the specific opportunities the Service Managers have to lead and/or support the charge to develop and implement comprehensive plans. Dr. Alina Turner is the primary author of the Toolkit.