Introduction to Housing First for Youth

III. Philosophy and Program Model of HF4Y

Training Introduction

Adolescence is a time of transition between childhood and adulthood. Typically, young people experience significant growth in all aspects of their development including physical, psychological, emotional, and social development. 

Learning objectives
  • Describe how the HF4Y philosophy can be used to guide community response to homelessness
  • Describe how HF4Y can be operationalized as a program of housing and supports for youth
  • Describe the significance of a rights-based perspective with the HF4Y approach
  • Describe key elements of a youth-centered approach in HF4Y
  • Identify ways that HF4Y has been adapted to work with Indigenous youth

Suggested Pre-reading:

Before you start this section, you may find this article interesting. It talks about 'adolescence interrupted' which is something that happens to young people when they are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Adolescence typically is a time for youth to take on new challenges and responsibilities. For youth who are homeless, the experience is one of adolescence interrupted where they are rushed towards independence without adequate preparation.

A screenshot of a social media post

Description automatically generatedRead the article in Coming of Age (Gaetz, 2014)

Developmental Tasks of Adolescence

In adolescence, young people move from childhood to adulthood. During this time, they learn about themselves, how to relate to others and they make plans for the future. These activities can be understood as series of developmental tasks of adolescence:

  • develop a personal sense of identity
  • establish independence from parents and other adults
  • develop stable and productive peer relationships
  • adopt a personal value system
  • develop skills needed for work / career
  • develop increased impulse control and behavioral maturity

The Adolescent Brain video

Our understanding of the changes taking place in the brain during adolescence has grown as a result of advances in neuroscience and brain imaging techniques. In the video below, Dr. Dan Siegel discusses his research findings and exposes popular myths of adolescence that “teens are driven mad by raging hormones”, and they are “just immature and need to grow up.”

Keep in mind that young people develop physically, emotionally and socially at different rates. Some young people may have difficulties achieving developmental milestones due to developmental delays or traumatic brain injury. The experience of homelessness would also have a significant impact on the developing youth. What might happen if youth are not able to successfully navigate these tasks during adolescence?


Take a few moments to think about youth needs and developmental tasks during the adolescent phase. During this phase they are learning about who they are and exploring relationships with others.

  • Why might it be inappropriate for youth to be responsible for taking care of a home?
  • What should be the priorities of developing adolescents and how might these priorities be impeded or set aside by pressures to earn money and live independently?
  • Why might time limits on programs or receiving support be unethical when working with developing adolescents?
  • Why is it important for programs to emphasize social inclusion and what might be some potential impacts of social isolation if young people do not have social and community supports?

If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please create a post in the Part 1 – General Discussion forum.