Introduction to Housing First for Youth

A Right to Housing with No Preconditions

Young people have the right to safe, secure and permanent housing that meets their needs as quickly as possible. When we allow youth to experience homelessness, we are denying their basic human rights. This principle is key to the philosophy of HF4Y as it is in the adult model.


Youth should have choices and options regarding location, type of housing, selection of roommates, etc. Younger teens will typically need additional support before transitioning to living on their own. Cultural appropriateness should also be taken into account, particularly for Indigenous youth.

“No preconditions” means that young people do not have to demonstrate that they are ready for housing. For example, for young people with addictions, housing is not conditional on sobriety or abstinence – HF4Y programs require a harm reduction environment.

Housing and supports are separated

Immediate access to housing and supports is particularly important for young people to reduce long stays in emergency shelters and to reduce the likelihood that they will experience physical, emotional or sexual exploitation. The offer of housing is not tied to participation in programming (attend school or work) or treatment (mental health or substance use). When the youth decides that supports should end, they do not have to leave their accommodation. Young people are guaranteed permanent housing as long as they continue to see a HF4Y case manager once per week.

HF4Y providers adopt a “zero discharge into homelessness” approach. That means a young person’s behaviour or actions do not result in permanent loss of housing. If they lose their housing – for whatever reason – case managers stay engaged with youth and they are rehoused as quickly as possible, as many times as required.

Ways to apply the principle:

  • Work with a young person to find rental properties in their community that match their needs and budget
  • Attend rental viewings with young people
  • Ask their preferences and be creative to match them as quickly as possible