Introduction to Housing First for Youth

Positive Youth Development and Wellness Orientation

This is the third core principle of HF4Y.

HF4Y is about much more than putting a roof over a young person’s head and meeting their basic needs. It is about supporting recovery and wellness and providing individualized supports and resources to end their experience of homelessness forever. This approach acknowledges that young people can flourish when they have access to stable housing and personalized supports.

Positive youth development orientation is a focus on strengths rather than just risk and vulnerability. Programs must address the physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs of developing adolescents. Every youth is unique therefore every intervention needs to be as well.  Interventions build on the strengths, talents and dreams of young people, and work towards enhancing personal well being and resilience. It may take time for young people to assume the responsibilities of independent adults, and there must be a willingness to support young people for as long as they need.

Trauma and the relationship to homelessness

Many young people who experience homelessness have had early exposure to trauma. Research (Gaetz & O’Grady, 2002) shows that young people who are homeless are more likely to have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused, or exposed to parental neglect and domestic violence. The experience of trauma at any age can impact:

  • cognitive and emotional development
  • decision-making
  • mood and emotional regulation of stress, anger, and aggression
  • motivation
  • stress response
  • physical health and illness.

A trauma-informed care approach does not take a young person's behaviours for granted but instead recognizes that their actions and behaviours are shaped by life experiences, which often include trauma. Addressing trauma is a necessary step in promoting positive change that contributes to personal well-being and development.

Ways to apply the principle

  • Meeting young people in locations and places that they are comfortable with
  • Using appropriate language and case management tools that align with the level of cognitive development of young people.
  • Use strengths-based assessment tools
  • Use case management methods to promote the physical, cognitive, emotional and social needs of young people
  • Provide support that allow youth to take chances, to grow and prosper as adults