Prevention strategies are part of the system wide approach addressing youth homelessness in Australia and the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom has developed a strategic approach to addressing homelessness, with central government support, but also with a strong reliance on innovative community programs. They have focused on ending street homelessness (rough sleepers), and have developed innovative strategies to address youth homelessness. Some of these strategies focus on prevention (school-based programs, family mediation) and effective transitional housing strategies (the Foyer model).
In the UK, approximately two–thirds of the local authorities that have homelessness action plans include family mediation as a key response. In one local authority, nearly 50% of young people who participated in family mediation remained at home, or if they were homeless, returned home. In addition, family mediation programs help move young people out of the shelter system and back with their families or their community in a safe and planned way. Many of the UK’s most innovative approaches could be applied in the Canadian context, by the not-for-profit and volunteer sectors working with private sector support. (See the Resources section of the toolkit for more information)
Australia has also taken a very strategic approach to addressing homelessness and specifically youth homelessness. Australia’s federal model is in some ways similar to Canada, and has always had mid-levels of government actively engaged in working to eliminate homelessness.
In Australia, early intervention is a comprehensive approach which includes working with schools, social services, health services and family mediation. Intervention starts at age 12 and includes school and community-based services working to engage young people and their families before youth become homeless. Reconnect programs are developed across Australia, built into existing services and modified to meet the needs of the surrounding communities. (See the Resources section of the toolkit for more information)
The key elements of Australia and UK’s programming that are essential to systems-level responses are:
- A commitment to a planned approach to reduce or end homelessness with measurable outcomes, targets and benchmarks
- Active, strategic and coordinated engagement of the government, not-for-profit sector and the private sector
- A focus on prevention and rapid re-housing
- Strategic coordination of service
- Increasing the supply of affordable housing
- Addressing the need for supports, including income
- The need for research, data gathering and information sharing