The Host Homes model is an alternative to shelters and transitional housing services for young people at-risk of becoming homeless. It is an example of place-based youth homelessness prevention, meaning that the program is located in the young person’s own community.

Evaluating the Model

Thanks to the generous funding of Canada’s ESDC- Homelessness Partnering Strategy, Innovative Solutions to Homelessness program, Raising the Roof was able to work in partnership with The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and Bridging the Gap to explore the Host Homes model and conduct a program evaluation.

Bridging the Gap is the first program to operate under the Host Homes model in Ontario and has been in existence for 10 years. The program is located in Halton Region and predominately works with young people at-risk of homelessness in smaller communities (i.e., Oakville, Georgetown, Milton, Acton). The program serves young people ages 16-24 who are considered to be low risk.

The evaluation had 5 main goals:

  1. To establish the program theory and develop a program logic model;
  2. To examine the contextual factors impacting the Host Homes model;
  3. To assess the outcomes of young people who participate in the Host Homes program;
  4. To determine the strengths of Bridging the Gap’s Host Homes program;
  5. To determine how Bridging the Gap’s Host Homes program could be improved.

Key Findings

The evaluation found that Bridging the Gap’s Host Homes program is successfully diverting young people from the shelter system. Related to the program theory, the key program components were described as:

  1. Safe, secure, and no-cost housing located in a young person’s own community; and
  2. Supports offered by the Host Homes worker, the Host Homes providers, and the young people.

Contextual Factors

  • Lack of public transit makes it hard for young people to get to services outside of their community
  • Lack of affordable housing in Halton Region makes it harder for young people to find their own place
  • Bridging the Gap’s partnership with the Children Aid’s Society was particularly valuable

Outcomes of Youth

  • Young people were satisfied with the quality of their housing and felt that their housing and neighbourhoods had positive impacts on their lives
  • Young people also stated that their health and wellbeing improved as a result of being a part of the Host Homes program
  • Stability offered by the Host Homes program allowed young people to focus on finishing school and engage in recreational activities, such as physical fitness and dance.

Program Strengths

  • A safe place to live
  • Supports offered by the host
  • Hope that resulted from being a part of the program
  • Staff responsiveness to both young people and host providers, as well as the program’s success in diverting young people from the shelter system.

Program Challenges

  • One young person felt socially isolated in their Host Homes neighbourhood, while another young person could have benefited from a stronger relationship with their host provider.
  • More Host Homes are needed within Halton Region.
  • More education on homelessness needed.

Moving Forward

With Bridging the Gap’s support, Raising the Roof and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness will be using these findings to help inform a Developmental Evaluations of the Host Homes model. This would allow us to gain a deeper understanding of how Host Homes works in a Canadian context and how new programs can incorporate the learnings from this evaluation into their program design.

You can read the full Host Homes Program Evaluation Report here.