Website will provide homelessness workers with best practices from across Canada

A new Homelessness Learning Hub will give frontline community workers who serve people experiencing homelessness a central website that brings together best practices in the sector and offers training through online self-directed courses.

MP Judy Sgro with representatives of York University and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
From left: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Systems Planning Officer Erika Morton (Social Planner with the Street-Involved Youth Project, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton); Faculty of Education Professor and Associate Dean, Academic Programs Sarah Barrett; MP Judy Sgro; York University Interim Vice-President Research and Innovation Dr. Rui Wang; and Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Communications Officer Pardis Pahlavanlu

On July 5, Member of Parliament for Humber River–Black Creek Judy Sgro, on behalf of Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos, announced $581,379 in federal funding over three years for development of the website by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), which is based at York University. The grant is being made through the Community Capacity and Innovation funding stream of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.

“I’m proud that through Reaching Home and the new Community Capacity and Innovation funding stream, we’re able to work with organizations like Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to develop innovative solutions that will support the homeless-serving sector,” said Sgro. “Supporting our service providers, frontline staff and communities with the right tools and resources ensures that we are equipping communities across Canada with the capacity to prevent and reduce homelessness.”

The COH has worked in partnership with the federal government’s Homelessness Policy Directorate, doing surveys, interviews and stakeholder focus groups to better understand the professional development needs of the sector. They learned frontline service providers and community organizations needed practical tools and resources to train staff and provide professional development.

“York University is proud to support the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, one of the largest research institutes of its kind in the world, dedicated to understanding the needs of homeless people in Canada,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “The Homelessness Learning Hub brings together academics, policy makers, service providers and government to create safer and more sustainable housing options. The website also maximizes the impact of the work in communities across the country extending the network of those seeking to solve homelessness and sharing approaches based on evidence. We commend the federal government for their ongoing support of initiatives that mobilize knowledge around this important issue.”

The Homelessness Learning Hub will offer online courses in a number of fields identified in the federal homelessness strategy, Reaching Home, as national priorities for the homelessness sector: prevention, data management, Housing First, case management, systems planning, and coordinated access. Those who are working in the homeless-serving sector are being asked to contribute their best resources to the website during the soft-launch.

The Homelessness Learning Hub will include practical, multimedia resources that are accessible to all, free of charge: factsheets, guides, toolkits, infographics webinars and more. Examples of the resources include: 

  • Housing First 101 – resources including practical guides for working with various populations in an effort to reduce chronic homelessness using the Housing First framework.
  • Priority Population: Youth – resources on working with and building programming for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Systems Planning Collective Learning Modules – four modules that form a comprehensive curriculum, with resources to mobilize systems planning knowledge, hone related skills and take steps to change and improve local outcomes.

The COH is a non-partisan research and policy partnership between academics, policy and decision makers, service providers and people with lived experience of homelessness. Housed at York University, the COH evolved out of a 2008 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project called the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. Led by Faculty of Education Professor Stephen Gaetz, CEO & president, the COH collaborates with partners to conduct and mobilize research that contributes to better, more effective solutions to homelessness. To learn more, visit www.homelesshub.ca, or follow on Twitter @homelesshub.

Professor Hedi Bouraoui invested as a member of the Order of Canada

GG05-2019-0066-015 14/03/2019 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada The Governor General presented the Member insignia of the Order of Canada to Hédi Bouraoui, C.M. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, invested 1 Companion, 2 Officers and 37 Members into the Order of Canada on March 14, 2019, at Rideau Hall. *** La gouverneure générale a présenté l’insigne de Membre de l’Ordre du Canada à Hédi Bouraoui, C.M. Son Excellence la très honorable Julie Payette, gouverneure générale du Canada, a remis l’Ordre du Canada à 1 Compagnon, 2 Officiers et 37 Membres, le 14 mars 2019, à Rideau Hall. Credit/Mention de source: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall, OSGG-BSGG

Professor Hédi Bouraoui, York University’s writer in residence, was formally invested as a member of the Order of Canada during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Thursday, March 14. Bouraoui was recognized for his tremendous body of work and tireless advocacy for French-language literature.

Governor General Julie Payette presided over the event, which also acknowledged the achievements of 39 other Canadians.

The Governor General of Canada Julie Payette (right) presented the member insignia of the Order of Canada to York Professor Hédi Bouraoui, C.M., on March 14 at Rideau Hall

Bouraoui is the former Chair of French Studies. He has authored 20 books of poetry, 15 novels and several volumes of literary criticism. He has taught courses in contemporary theory and fiction for the graduate program in English and postcolonial Maghrebian literature for graduate French.

In addition to this latest honour, Bouraoui was awarded the title of Chevalier des Palmes Académiques in 1996 by the French government. He was then promoted to Officier des Palmes Académiques in 2004. In 1999, he received the Prix du Nouvel Ontario of the Nuit de l’Étang, Sudbury, for his contributions to francophone arts and culture in Ontario. In 2003, he received an honorary degree from Laurentian University. In 2005, an international conference on his work was organized at York University, and the Proceedings, Perspectives Critiques sur l’oeuvre d’Hédi Bouraoui (edited by York Professor Elizabeth Sabiston and McMaster Professor Suzanne Crosta) was published in 2007.

Bouraoui continues to play an active role in the Canada-Maghreb Centre, which he founded at Stong College.

For the official release from the Office of the Governor General of Canada on Bouraoui’s investiture as a member of the Order of Canada, visit: gg.ca/en/media/news/2019/governor-general-invest-40-recipients-order-canada.

Health Ecosphere collaboration leads to innovative digital health tech solutions to urgent healthcare challenges

Health Ecosphere, an innovative project established to support the development of digital health technologies in Canada, has led to the commercialization of over 75 new products, forged close to 100 new partnerships, and created a new business model for moving health-tech prototypes to market.

The lead partners of Health Ecosphere — York UniversitySouthlake Regional Health Centre and the University Health Network — celebrated the successes of the three-year project today, along with the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

“The Health Ecosphere program reflects the strength of York’s collaboration with our partners in the healthcare field, finding new ways to apply research to improve the lives of Canadians and to prepare students for exciting careers in digital health,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, Navdeep Bains, first announced $15 million in federal funding for the project in 2016. This investment was designed to bring universities, healthcare providers, the business community and government together to develop and commercialize technologies that could be used to improve the health of Canadians and position Canada as a global centre for innovation. Matching funding from private, academic and not-for-profit partners brought total investments to $35 million.

York U president, Willowdale MO and South Lake members at Health Ecosphere
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton speaks with Faculty of Health Professor and Dean Emeritus Harvey Skinner about the Health Coach Training Modules developed at York University through Health Ecosphere

In the past three years, the project has created and maintained more than 150 well-paid positions and commercialized or deployed 77 products and services in 62 new markets.

The new products and services developed through Health Ecosphere are offering solutions to urgent healthcare issues. Technologies developed include healthcare apps, medical devices and big data platforms. They are designed to connect and coordinate healthcare, address fiscal impacts of the proliferation of chronic disease, help individuals change their behaviours, and leverage big data to develop and commercialize solutions.

Examples of the products and services developed through Health Ecosphere include:

  • BrDI, an evidence-based tablet shown to have strong potential as a brain health assessment tool, tracks recovery from head injury as well as functional problems related to dementia risk. York University reached an exclusive licence deal that will see the technology commercialized into a human assessment platform sold by a Canadian company. It is already in use for a large study to gather data from adults in the Netherlands.
  • Southlake Regional Health Centre, in collaboration with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, validated a real-time predictive analytic tool called Artemis, which helps clinicians in diagnosing premature babies in Southlake’s neonatal intensive care unit. For these tiny patients, hours could be the difference between life and death, so the time Artemis saves could make all the difference.
  • The Breathe Respiratory Platform has been developed and deployed by the University Health Network(UHN) to transform current methods for the self-management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma, from a generic paper-based approach to an approach that is dynamic and personalized. It is enabling patients in acute care and primary care clinics across Ontario to manage exacerbations in breathing more effectively.

Health Ecosphere has also created a cluster of academic, healthcare and industry partners in southern Ontario and has trained 51 graduate and doctoral students at York University, the University of Toronto and the affiliated UHN. These students, in health and applied science, biomedical engineering and health informatics, are addressing the digital health sector’s need for a highly educated workforce and scientific expertise. The Health Coach Training Modules at York University, created through Health Ecosphere, have contributed to the skills development of 90 healthcare professionals, including 25 from First Nations communities and 15 rural guidance counsellors.

Health Ecosphere ventures have created $12 million in revenues, and the products and services continue to spread to markets in Canada, North America, Europe and beyond.

More information about Health Ecosphere projects is available here.

York chemistry professor awarded prestigious Polanyi Prize

York U chemistry Professor Christopher Caputo receives the 2018 John Charles Polanyi Prize
York University chemistry Professor Christopher Caputo, Canada Research Chair in Metal-Free Materials for Catalysis (Tier 2) in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Chemistry, receives the 2018 John Charles Polanyi Prize from Elizabeth Dowdeswell, lieutenant-governor of Ontario, along with Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training colleges and universities, and John C. Polanyi, Nobel laureate in chemistry

York University Chemistry Professor Christopher Caputo is among five university researchers in Ontario who have been recognized with a 2018 Polanyi Prize. The award recipients were announced on Tuesday.

Caputo is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science and a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair at York University. He received the Polanyi Prize in Chemistry.

How can we remove precious metals from the manufacturing process for plastics, pharmaceuticals and other industrial products? Caputo’s research aims to do so − and make production less expensive and more sustainable.

The reliance on precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium to act as catalysts in industrial processes and energy production is a major problem, since they are highly rare and hugely expensive. In fact, these metals are so rare on Earth that serious consideration has been given to space projects to mine asteroids for them.

Caputo’s research focuses on how to use “main group” chemicals – common, non-metal elements such as boron and phosphorous − to take their place as catalysts. This means manipulating them to create molecules that can mimic the high reactivity of precious metals.

The project needs to overcome the obstacles that make it difficult to form the kind of main-group molecules that can act as catalysts; one is their high sensitivity to air and water, making it necessary to synthesize novel molecules that remain stable in these conditions. The research into these new molecules is designed to lead to cheaper, alternative catalytic processes that will boost the economy and help lead to more sustainable industries.

Christopher Caputo delivers remarks after receiving the 2018 John Charles Polanyi Prize
Professor Christopher Caputo delivers remarks after receiving the 2018 John Charles Polanyi Prize for his research in chemistry

In addition to Caputo, other innovative and groundbreaking research recognized this year includes work to help breast cancer patients beat the ill-effects of chemotherapy and radiation on the heart and devising statistical models to evaluate teachers more accurately.

“This year’s Polanyi Prize winners are outstanding examples of how fundamental research contributes to Ontario’s economy and quality of life,” said David Lindsay, president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities. “The research and innovation taking place every day on university campuses brings enormous benefits in terms of jobs and social progress and is helping to create a better future for students, our communities, and the province.”

“It is an honour to recognize and celebrate the 2018 winners of the Polanyi Prize. Polanyi Prize winners represent some of the best researchers across Ontario universities,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities. “Their successes help better the lives of the people in our province and boost Ontario’s reputation as a leader in research.”

The Polanyi Prizes are awarded each year to innovative researchers who are either continuing postdoctoral work or have recently gained a faculty appointment. Each of this year’s winners will receive $20,000 in recognition of their exceptional research in the fields of chemistry, physics, economic science and physiology/medicine.

A statement from the Markham Centre Campus partners

The following is a statement regarding York University’s Markham Centre Campus. It was issued on Friday, Oct. 26.

Earlier today, the main Markham Centre Campus partners met in Markham to begin a more detailed discussion about the $252 million shovel-ready project.

We remain equally committed to this vitally important project and to working together as we explore all possible options to build the campus.

The campus was designed to meet the forecasted steady increase in population growth and the demand for programs in areas like entrepreneurship, commerce, digital media and medical biotechnology, responsive to the emerging labour market needs of York Region and Ontario. In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing other means to advance our plans including any adjustments that may be needed regarding the timeline and taking into consideration the fiscal constraints of the province.

A new campus in Markham Centre will be a critical economic generator and community asset for Markham, York Region and Ontario.

We all remain steadfast in our commitment to seeing this project through to a successful completion. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from York Region residents, current and future students, the business community and the many community groups who share our belief that this infrastructure is essential, valuable and beneficial.

Rhonda L. Lenton, President and Vice-Chancellor, York University

David Agnew, President, Seneca

Frank Scarpitti, Mayor, City of Markham

Wayne Emmerson, Chairman and CEO, The Regional Municipality of York

York University will participate in the new Innovation Superclusters initiative

Engineer hand using tablet, heavy automation robot arm machine in smart factory industrial with tablet real time monitoring system application. Industry 4th iot concept.

York University applauds the Government of Canada’s $950-million investment in the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, a commitment that will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the private sector.

The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, in which York University is proud to be a participant, is an exciting initiative that will help to substantially propel our region into a globally leading centre for advanced manufacturing, which is critical to the success of the Canadian economy. It will help manufacturers across Canada become world leaders in the application of advanced technologies and will help technology firms build the next generation of tools for advanced manufacturing. It will create a critical mass of innovation activity with a gravity powerful enough to attract talent, technology, investment and customers from around the world.

By advancing collaborative, industry-led projects and driving collaboration between technology and manufacturing sectors in areas including microelectronics technology, this Supercluster will contribute to leading-edge applied research and technology development for the benefit of all Canadians.

York to participate in the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster

York University will play a role in the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, joining with more than 100 leading Canadian companies and other post-secondary partners to position Canadian manufacturers as global leaders in the application of next generation tools for advanced manufacturing.

An engineer uses a tablet to control a heavy automation robot arm in a smart factory

Specifically, York University is the academic lead for the microelectronic component of the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, one chapter of the overall project.

This considerable initiative will see York University’s researchers become prominent contributors towards securing Canada’s leadership in the knowledge economy.

York University views this business-led initiative as an exciting opportunity to help grow our region’s economy by establishing Canada as a globally recognized hub for manufacturing and technology leadership.

York’s strengths in science, engineering, microelectronics and nanotechnology

  • York University is home to a rapidly growing research profile in science and engineering. York University’s engineering specialization in microelectronics and nanotechnology as well as its micro-fabrication and micro-fluidics laboratories for research and education dovetail, naturally, with the ambitions of the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster initiative.
  • York University’s long-established commitment to impactful research in fundamental and applied science and engineering will allow us to reciprocate industry investment with innovative knowledge creation, fostering connectivity and collaboration.
  • By leveraging York University’s expertise in technology and information systems, along with operations management leadership through the Schulich School of Business, York University will help to empower and bolster Canadian leadership in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Message from the President: Announcement of appointment of Chief of Government and Community Relations

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton issues the following announcement to the University community:

Ijade Maxwell Rodrigues
Ijade Maxwell Rodrigues

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ijade Maxwell Rodrigues as Chief of Government and Community Relations, effective January 1st, 2018. Ijade has more than 18 years of experience in various roles at York University, most recently performing a combined role as Chief of Staff to the President and Director, Government Relations. She has provided leadership in creating and implementing a range of community engagement initiatives for the University, including Red & White Days, President for a Day and the President’s Annual Town Halls; and she has been very successful in building stronger relationships with government stakeholders across all three levels of government.

As Chief of Government and Community Relations, Ijade will report directly to the President and lead the Government and Community Relations Office, coordinating efforts across the campus in seeking out new funding opportunities, and influencing policy issues of strategic importance to York University. Importantly, she will be responsible for developing long-term relationships with key government stakeholders at all three levels of government as well as community stakeholders in order to raise our profile with external stakeholders and advance the University’s strategic priorities in the four broad areas of access, connectedness, excellence and impact.

Ijade is currently Chair, Board of Directors for the Carea Community Health Centre in Durham Region. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education and Community Connection. Ijade holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Victoria, as well as an Honours Bachelor of Science from York University.

I look forward to Ijade’s continued contribution as a member of my senior leadership team and toward the advancement of our strategic priorities and enhancement of the important relationships with our community and government partners. The search for a new Chief of Staff for the Office of the President will commence shortly. In the meantime, Ijade will continue to provide support to me as Chief of Staff until this role is filled.

Please join me in congratulating and wishing her well in this new role. I know she will enjoy the support of colleagues across the University.

President Lenton makes the case for building an inclusive economy

Each year, Ontario’s most influential leaders gather at the Ontario Economic Summit, hosted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The two-day event presents an unparalleled opportunity to share insight, explore opportunities, and most importantly, to shape public policy.

Above: From left, Andrew Pickersgill (co-chair of the summit and managing partner of McKinsey & Co.), Roberta Jamieson (president of Indspire), York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, and Kevin Lynch, vice-chair of BMO Financial

This year, York University’s president participated in the summit as part of her drive to engage in high priority conversations that will shape the future of higher education in Ontario. President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton attended the summit on Nov. 9 and 10 and participated in a highly anticipated panel discussion, “Defining Inclusive Economic Growth.” Lenton engaged in the important discussion with Roberta Jamieson, president of Indspire, and Kevin Lynch, vice-chair of BMO Financial. The moderator of the panel was Andrew Pickersgill, co-chair of the summit and managing partner of McKinsey & Co.

As Lenton outlined in her remarks, Ontario’s universities play a vital role in preparing students for a global knowledge economy and York University is well positioned to lead in this area. Lenton’s unique perspective shaped the discussion by pressing for greater focus on the importance of social innovation and the contribution of the humanities and social sciences in the economy. “We cannot afford to leave behind any motivated and qualified individual who wishes to pursue post-secondary education,” she said.

Lenton’s term as York University’s eighth president and vice-chancellor began in July, and since then she has been working to ensure the University is positioned at the forefront when it comes to her four areas of focus: access, connectedness, excellence and impact.

York University welcomes $127 million in Ontario government funding for new Markham Centre campus

An artist’s concept of the new Markham Centre campus

It was a day to celebrate York University’s promising future.

On Friday, June 9, York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri joined representatives from the Government of Ontario, the Regional Municipality of York, the City of Markham and Seneca College for the official announcement of a $127 million commitment by the Ontario government that will enable York University to open a Markham Centre campus in 2021.

MPP Michael Chan (at the podium) announces the Ontario Government's funding commitment. Looking are students from Ashton Meadows Public School and dignitaries
Michael Chan, minister of international trade and MPP, Markham-Unionville (at the podium) announces the Ontario Government’s funding commitment for the new Markham Centre campus. In the audience are Grade 8 students from Ashton Meadows Public School. Dignitaries seated beside Chan, are, from left, Lesley Beagrie, chair of the York University Senate, Helena Jaczek, minister of community and social services and MPP, Oak Ridges-Markham, Steven Del Duca, minister of transportation and MPP, Vaughan, and York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

The $127 million funding commitment was announced by Michael Chan, minister of international trade and MPP, Markham-Unionville. “This is a thrilling and transformative day for our community here in Markham. Our government’s multi-million dollar investment in this beautiful new campus delivers on our commitment to expand postsecondary education options in high-growth locations and will offer thousands of students a broad range of programs from which to learn, experience, grow and prepare for the future, close to home,” said Chan. Joining Chan for the announcement were Helena Jaczek, minister of community and social services and MPP, Oak Ridges-Markham, and Steven Del Duca, minister of transportation and MPP, Vaughan.

An artist’s concept of the new Markham Centre campus

Within a few years of opening, the Markham Centre campus will meet the rapidly growing demand for access to leading-edge postsecondary education in York Region, with capacity for up to 4,000 students that is expected to grow to 10,000 in future phases.

“With this announcement of dedicated funding to our new Markham Centre campus, York University and our partners are one important step closer to opening its doors in 2021,” said Shoukri. “The $127 million in funding from the Government of Ontario will ensure we are able to meet the growing demand for access to leading-edge postsecondary education in York Region, partner with local businesses and industry to provide unique experiential learning opportunities for our students, and contribute to the expansion of the Region’s major economic clusters. We are delighted that Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario government are dedicated to the success of our new York University campus in Markham Centre.”

Students from Ashton Meadows Public School react to the news that a new York University campus will be built in Markham

Also present at the announcement were 36 Grade 8 students from Ashton Meadows Public School in Markham who participated in a special “future graduate” convocation ceremony. The ceremony was presided over by Professor Lesley Beagrie, chair of the Senate of York University and was symbolic as some of the students present at the event will be among the first cohort to study at the new campus, which will open in 2021.

A student from Ashton Meadows Public School receives a congratulatory handshake from York University's president
A student from Ashton Meadows Public School receives a congratulatory handshake from York University’s president

The Markham Centre campus will be built on a five-acre site contributed by the City of Markham. York Region will contribute $25 million and York University has embarked on a fundraising campaign for the Markham Centre campus.

“We have been working in collaboration with York University to get the new campus built in Markham. I applaud the Provincial government for their financial support making our dream a reality,” said City of Markham Mayor Frank Scapitti. “This new campus will help build a vibrant cultural and academic hub within Markham and York Region. Markham is already home to Canada’s tech and life sciences leaders and this addition of a world-class university will allow us to attract and retain some of brightest minds in the world, work with industry leaders on research and development, support and grow our local talent pool and provide opportunities for students to thrive in their local community.”

The new campus will offer more than 20 degree programs and York University will work with academic partner Seneca College to offer several joint programs. Markham Centre campus will also form partnerships with the community to design research programs to meet regional needs, offer experiential education to students and create opportunities for commercialization and jobs.

Following the announcement, Ashton Meadows students gather for a group photo with the government and university representatives
Following the announcement and special convocation, the Ashton Meadows students joined officials for a photograph

“A university campus has been identified as the top economic priority for York Region,” said Wayne Emmerson, chairman and CEO of the Regional Municipality of York. “The $25-million investment our council is making to support a York University campus in Markham is an investment in our people, the economy and our future. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to advance this important project.”

Located near the corner of Enterprise Boulevard and Rivis Road, near the Markham Pan Am Centre, the Markham Centre campus is already serviced by 15 transit routes and is anticipated to accommodate up to 10,000 students in future phases.

More Information about York University−Markham Centre: http://markhamcentre.yorku.ca/.

Major homelessness prevention project will help young people upgrade education and skills

Canadian youth who are homeless now have hope for a better future thanks to almost $8-million in federal funding for homelessness prevention strategies announced April 25 during a special event at York University.

Above: From left, York University President-designate Rhonda Lenton, Faculty of Education Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Homeless Hub, Melanie Redman, executive director of A Way Home Canada, MP for Spadina-Fort York Colin Vaughan, and Robert Haché, vice-president research and innovation at York U

The funding will establish the Skills Link Program to help young people in Ontario and Alberta who are homeless, or in danger of becoming homeless, get the education, job skills, work experience and training they need. It will be underpinned by a new knowledge mobilization initiative that will be launched by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness based at York University.

Adam Vaughan

Adam Vaughan, member of Parliament for Spadina-Fort York, announced the Skills Link program funding on behalf of the Patty Hajdu, minister of employment workforce development and labour.  “As we move toward truth and reconciliation in this the 150th year of experimenting with a country, we have much to learn and remember from the teaching of [Aboriginal] elders as we think about housing,” said Vaughan. “In talking to elders in Edmonton … shelter is seen as a place of healing. When you think about the role that shelter plays in the healing process, shelter becomes a place where you sleep and regenerate, recover from illness and escape the cold.”

Housing, said Vaughan, is an essential tool for healing and the funding for youth homelessness is part of a massive investment by the federal government to end a 30-year drought in housing funding. Initiatives such the Skills Link Program will offer desperately needed intervention strategies to get homeless youth into safer environments and help them heal, said Vaughan. He spoke again about that recent conversation with Aboriginal elders during which they referred to the new federal focus on housing and the effort to prevent youth homelessness as a way to “create more elders” or in other words, save lives. The project will also help the government track data and understand what works or doesn’t work when it comes to youth homelessness and federal housing strategies.

More than 1,300 youth and their families will take part in the project, which focuses on prevention of homelessness through early intervention and Housing First for Youth. Specifically, the project will be delivered through a partnership between national leaders on homelessness prevention including A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University, and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, as well as the Provinces of Ontario and Alberta, and dozens of community partners.

“Through a unique partnership with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness  based at York University, the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, two provinces and dozens of community partners, the Making the Shift project will ensure that young people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness achieve housing stability and have natural supports such as family that are essential as they receive support to stay in school or access training and employment,” said  Melanie Redman, executive director of A Way Home Canada.

The goal of the project, “Making the Shift: Reimagining the Response to Youth Homelessness Through Social Innovation,” is to ensure that young people have housing stability as well as family and other supports to stay in school or access training and employment.

In the first two years of the project, demonstration projects will take place in 10 Canadian cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray.

Stephen Gaetz

Led by York University Professor Stephen Gaetz, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness will launch a Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab to oversee the demonstration projects and develop tools and resources to help other communities to do similar projects.  York University will receive $1.45 million of the federal funding to run the lab, which will focus on knowledge mobilization, to ensure prevention models and Housing First for Youth take root at the policy and practice levels.

“This project will not only enable over a thousand homeless youth to access education and employment, but will provide us with a much stronger evidence base about how to prevent youth homelessness and support young people who do experience homelessness to exit this situation,” said Gaetz. “It’s all about helping young people in a tough situation to move forward in their lives in a way that promotes wellness and the chance to succeed.”

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness issued a report recently that called for a major shift in addressing homelessness, to focus on prevention. This change in direction is important for young people in particular, according to the partners on the “Making the Shift” project for which funding was announced April 25, because becoming homeless for a sustained period may affect a young person’s health and wellbeing, their educational achievement and ultimately their ability to participate in the labour market.

“We are very pleased and proud to host this announcement at York University, as it represents not only a significant achievement for our researchers at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, but also because the ‘Making the Shift’ project is very much in line with our University’s mandate, mission and values,” said York University’s President-designate Rhonda Lenton. “This is a proactive, nationwide initiative that is entirely driven by communities; it highlights the potential of strategic research partnerships and collaborations between community organizations, universities and research hubs; and the project will have a very real impact on our communities, both locally and across the country.

President-designate Rhonda Lenton

“Today and since our founding, York University has been known for a commitment to accessible education and for producing research that responds to societal needs, so this project is a wonderful extension and affirmation of that commitment and heritage,” said Lenton.

York University has been working in the area of homelessness for more than a decade through the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Homelessness Hub, under the leadership of Gaetz. The University made history by hosting the very first research conference on homelessness back in 2005. Three years later, the Canadian Homelessness Research Network was established to formally bring together researchers, governments, communities and people with lived experience of homelessness from across Canada in order to better mobilize research and increase its impact on policy and practice.

“Making the Shift is a prime example of how compelling evidence on models of youth homelessness prevention can inform policy and lead to a sound investment in the future for this vulnerable community,” said Vice-President Research & Innovation Robert Haché. “It is also a stellar example of collaboration and partnerships − core values at York University, which has been working in the area of homelessness for more than a decade. We are very pleased to be working together with A Way Home Canada, MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the provinces of Ontario and Alberta in this important federally funded initiative.”