Housing First for Youth Service Delivery Model

Effective Case Management

HF4Y Case managers use a strengths-based and life-skills building orientation in their work with youth.


Effective case management relies on two important components: 1) Building a plan on individual needs, and 2) Building relationship between the case manager and the client. (Nelson & Aubry, 2007)

For all people, relationships are the key to success in all areas of life, and they are particularly important for young people who are experiencing disconnection and instability as a result of homelessness. Developmental relationships promote growth and increase the likelihood that maladaptive responses used in the past will be replaced with new, healthy responses to stress, which ultimately help youth succeed beyond social programs and services.

In HF4Y programs, case managers work to develop relationships with youth through regular and consistent engagement. This relationship is one of the most important factors in bringing about positive outcomes which is why regular and ongoing daily or weekly check-ins are an essential requirement of HF4Y programs. Check-ins may happen in the community, but they typically take the form of home visits.

Home visits

Home visits are a time to check in on progress, document growth, and review setbacks through a lens of learning through past experiences. As much as possible, home visits should be relaxed and natural. Visits can be planned to include meaningful activities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping and other errands - activities that are relevant to youth and their current goals. Home visits are much more than administrative requirements to tick off a box on a checklist.

Goals and transition plans

Case managers work with youth on goal planning and transition plans. This work requires active engagement and ongoing feedback from youth. Goal planning is an opportunity for youth to create meaningful goals that are expressed through their own unique voice and choice. Case managers can use goal plans as a tool to hold youth accountable and on track. This is another example of making home visits purposeful through meaningful engagement.

In practice, case management can be short- or long-term depending on the specific needs of the individual. Within a HF4Y model there cannot be mandated time limits program participation, rental subsidies, and length of time needed for services and support. Transition plans are started at intake and reviewed with youth every 90 days for as long as they are in the program. Transition plans are a map that include the steps needed to make a smooth transition to autonomy and permanent housing stability. When youth have achieved these goals, they are ready to graduate from the HF4Y program.

HF4Y Case managers work with youth from a strengths-based and life-skills building orientation. A strengths-based case management approach has six key dimensions:

  1. Collaboration and cooperation: A true team approach, involving several people with different backgrounds, skills and areas of expertise;
  2. Right matching of services: Person-centered and based on the complexity of need;
  3. Contextual case management: Interventions must appropriately take account of age, ability, culture, gender and sexual orientation. In addition, an understanding of broader structural factors and personal history (of violence, sexual abuse or assault, for instance) must underline strategies and mode of engagement;
  4. The right kind of engagement: Building a strong relationship based on respectful encounters, openness, listening skills, non-judgmental attitudes and advocacy;
  5. Coordinated and well-managed system: Integrating the intervention into the broader system of care; and
  6. Evaluation for success: The ongoing and consistent assessment of case managed supports.

Train for Trades video: The Train for Trades employment program offers complementary supports for participants.

Intensive Case Management  

Many HF4Y programs use an Intensive Case Management (ICM) model to support youth especially those with complex mental health and/or addictions needs. With ICM the objective is to help clients maintain their housing and improve their quality of life through case plans, life skills, and supports for health and mental health.

Characteristics of ICM:

  • One-on-one case manager to client relationship using a recovery-oriented approach (the team of case managers may include Housing and Complementary Support Workers).
  • The case manager brokers access to mainstream services that the client identifies as needed to attain his or her goals.
  • The case manager often accompanies clients to meetings and appointments in support of their goals/needs.
  • Case managers are available on a regular schedule; caseloads are often shared to assure coverage of 7 days per week/12 hours a day.
  • The duration of the service is determined by the needs of the client, with the goal of transitioning to mainstream services as soon as possible.