United Way York Region and York University put research into action

homeless youth sitting in the streets

Researchers, social service providers and government representatives will meet in Markham on Tuesday, Feb. 12, to hear how Niagara is addressing homelessness among youths, and to learn what might work in York Region and elsewhere in Canada.

Mike Lethby, executive director of Niagara Resource Service for Youth, will provide the keynote speech during the first of seven sessions in a Learning Series focused on developing an integrated response to youth homelessness. The Learning Series is the result of a partnership between the United Way York Region and York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, with funding from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, Eva’s National Initiatives Program, and the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN), based at York University.

Lethby, who founded the non-profit Foundation of Resources for Teens, completed a study for the federal government in 2006 on access to employment for homeless people in the Niagara Region. Working with at-risk youth and their families, he is regarded as a principal actor in moving the region’s youth service model from a reactive institutional crisis model to a preventative community model.

He will outline Niagara’s systems approach in response to youth homelessness, including the role of research, a Youth without Secure Housing roundtable and relationships with schools and families, as part of the Youth Reconnect Program.

GaetzYork University Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of CHRN, is leading the Learning Series project. At a United Way−York U conference in November, leaders in the field concluded that addressing youth homelessness would require a shift from an emergency response model to one that focuses on preventing youth homelessness and rapidly rehousing youths who become homeless, he said.

Professor Stephen Gaetz

The Learning Series, which runs from February to June, will feature seven speakers who think outside the box, and have developed creative and effective responses to youth homelessness that will inspire people who work with homeless youth in York Region and across Canada, said Gaetz.