Housing First for Youth Service Delivery Model

Spotlight: Free 2 Be (WoodGreen)

In Toronto, Free 2 Be (HF4Y) is a homelessness prevention program delivered by WoodGreen Community Services for young people transitioning out of care.

Free 2 Be is one of three HF4Y programs that is part of the Making the Shift Demonstration Lab.
Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Demonstration Lab is a partnership between A Way Home Canada & the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness with the support of MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Small caseloads mean more time spent building solid relationships and thus more availability to support a continuity of care by being a constant feature of a young person’s transition from the system. More intensive time allows for features of the case counselling model that are less than traditional, such as movie outings, trips to the gym, or a formal celebration of a birthday or milestone. Case managers become more than just a worker making trips to the doctor or psychiatrist; they can become a model of consistency and a temporary human that a young person can rely on to be there and to share important moments with, something that is lacking for many youth exiting child welfare.

Why HF4Y?

Free 2 Be was developed in line with the HF4Y model because the core principles and philosophy of HF4Y, and the concept of a rights-based continuum of housing, aligned with all of the insight we gained from young people, service providers and the literature in terms of a youth-centred, holistic and trauma-informed approach to supporting the self-determination and self-efficacy of our young people as they navigate the tumultuous terrain of young adulthood.

Free 2 Be draws on the HF4Y model, with an emphasis on positive youth development, establishing spaces where young people can test their comfort zone in community settings, where youth are given opportunities for leadership and where the conditions for self-determination and self-efficacy is the intended outcome.

Challenges

Young people transitioning out of care face significant systemic barriers as well as higher risks of homelessness. The program organizers  conducted community-based action research with more than 200 sector stakeholders and 60 young people with lived experience to inform the Free 2 Be program design. These stakeholders advocated for a community-based program that provides longer term, intensive support grounded in positive and consistent role modelling, trust and relationships at the core.

What does the program look like?

The program was initially launched with scattered-site housing in the community with rental supplements and start up supports. Free 2 Be will eventually provide a range of housing options that are available to participants depending on their needs and context (e.g., dedicated affordable apartments, a congregate housing option, transitional housing with supports, etc.) Currently WoodGreen is in partnership with a Toronto-based architect to co-design with our young people a transitional housing environment built for purpose.

Free 2 Be is part of a broader youth strategy within WoodGreen. Along with community partners, they will be launching a new Youth Wellness Hub. This hub of services will together offer clinical counselling and psychiatry, primary care and additional youth programming. 

Read more about Free 2 Be (HF4Y) program