The Upstream Project Canada

What is it?

The Upstream Project Canada is an innovative initiative aimed to prevent, rather than respond to, youth homelessness in Canada. Using a population-screening tool, the project identifies at-risk youth and connects them to supports that help them remain in school and maintain stable housing. Ultimately, the goals are to:

  1. Improve student’s overall and mental well-being
  2. Increase school engagement
  3. Decrease youth homelessness


As the project name implies, the best way to address youth homelessness is to work upstream to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Innovative features:

Raising the Roof recognizes that it is impossible to address youth homelessness without bringing other key players to the table. These key players are school staff and local community agencies.

While school staff are sometimes aware of students who are at risk of homelessness, they are not necessarily equipped with the knowledge and resources to address these needs. Local community agencies, on the other hand, are equipped with the necessary tools and resources but are unaware of those who are in need of their services. As such, the need for a collaborative response to homelessness is important.

The context of the project:

The Upstream Project Canada is a collaborative venture between the following project partners: Raising the Roof, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), and A Way Home Canada.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) is a university-based research consortium committed to conducting and mobilizing research so that it has a greater impact on policy and practice. COH’s role in this initiative is thought-leadership, toolkit development, and evaluation support.

A Way Home Canada is a national coalition of organizations working together to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness.  A Way Home Canada’s role in this project is pan-Canadian community engagement, government relations, and selection of communities for participation.

In addition to these project partners, The Upstream Project Canada has a collaborative partnership between Raising the Roof, participating schools, and partnering community agencies, which vary from one community to the next.

The Upstream Project is the first of its kind in Canada; however, the project actually originates from Geelong, Australia. This Australian predecessor, called The Community of Schools and Services (COSS) Model, is a groundbreaking early intervention program, which works with schools and community partners to identify youth at high-risk of becoming homeless. For more information on The COSS Model, check out their website here.

How does The Upstream Project Canada work?

How it works

This visual image illustrates the program’s model:

  • Students complete a student needs assessment
  • The needs assessment identifies students who are at risk
  • Wrap-around supports and services are offered to these youth

Early Findings

6 schools (or 3,322 students) across two Ontario communities have been surveyed during the project’s pilot phase (2016-2018). Early findings show that 1% of all participants are at risk of school disengagement and psychological distress, and nearly 4% of all participants are at risk of homelessness. 

How to get involved?

I can…

1 | Become a participating school

If you are an interested school staff, you can bring this initiative to the attention of your office administrators and school board.

2 | Become a community partner

As a community partner, you will work closely with Raising the Roof and the participating school to offer wrap-around supports for youth in need of safe and stable housing and mental well-being services.

3 | Make a financial contribution

Funding Partners:

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy’s Innovative Solutions to Homelessness.
Financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada par le biais des Solutions novatrices à l’itinérance de  la Stratégie des partenariats de lutte contre l’itinérance.

Supporting Partner