Introduction to Housing First for Youth

HF4Y Philosophy

HF4Y can be implemented as a program, and it can also serve as a philosophy to guide community planning to address youth homelessness.

Graphic Continuum of supports

HF4Y is a form of youth homelessness prevention on the right end of the continuum.

Figure 2. Continuum of Prevention Policy & Practice. HF4Y is on the right end of the prevention continuum.

It is important to note that the HF4Y approach is different from conventional responses to homelessness. You will recall from Lesson 1 that approaches designed for adult populations offer housing with minimal supports and are time limited. There is also a greater focus of resources put toward an emergency response – crisis services such as shelters – rather than prevention or the provision of supports to maintain housing stability. HF4Y, on the other hand, emphasizes choice, youth-centered and strengths-based practices which is rooted in international human rights obligations regarding access to adequate housing. 

As a philosophy

As an overarching philosophy, the HF4Y core principles can guide the way a community, organization, or program addresses youth homelessness. A youth-serving agency and/or an entire community can use the HF4Y core principles to ground and inform the design and delivery of the range of services and programs they provide, from prevention and  early intervention to housing stabilization.  The HF4Y core principles can shape everything from how a community/organization  prioritizes and assesses youth, matches them to housing and supports, prevents evictions, collects data, and integrates services and systems. 

As a program

HF4Y can be an intervention for young people that is developed by a community organization. To implement the program, there needs to be dedicated resources and staff that support youth to find and maintain housing and sustain exits from homelessness. In Toronto, the Making the Shift Demonstration site at  WoodGreen is a HF4Y program designed to support young people who have/had involvement with child protection. With housing and intensive case management support, youth have the opportunity to  transition from care to independent living. And from adolescence to adulthood.  HF4Y programs represent one part of a broader systems strategy to address youth homelessness. 

What Do You Think?

Do our systems and services support people’s right to access adequate housing? What barriers do youth who are homeless face accessing services that may contravene their human rights? In your experience, how common are scenarios such as the ones below.

-- A landlord turns away a young person on the basis that they don’t have a long enough work history and no credit rating.

-- A young person becomes homeless and is at best only offered crisis shelter and supports.

-- A young person has no access to an 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly shelter.

-- The city is developing a homelessness strategy and youth aren’t involved.

-- The police are sweeping city streets, rounding up homeless children and youth, issuing tickets or moving them to urban peripheries.

-- A family has migrated to the city looking for economic opportunities but there are no adequate housing options. To get away from the overcrowded conditions and to help generate an income, the young family members are lured to the street.

Source: Youth Rights! Right Now! Ending Youth Homelessness: A Human Rights Guide.