In collaboration with A Way Home, Journey Home, Raising the Roof, Arc Programs, The Bridge Youth & Family Services, and Foundry we are proud to introduce The Upstream Project. This collaborative project is overseen by Raising the Roof, A Way Home Canada, and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is something that we have been itching to tell you all about so without further ado behold The Upstream Project!
What is The Upstream Project?
The Upstream Project is an innovative initiative aimed to prevent, rather than respond to, youth homelessness in Canada. Using a population-screening tool, the project identifies at-risk youth and connects them to supports that help them remain in school and maintain stable housing. Ultimately, the goals are to:
- Improve student’s overall and mental well-being
- Increase school engagement
- Decrease youth homelessness
As the project name implies, the best way to address youth homelessness is to work upstream to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
How Does it Work?
Typically young people are identified in schools as being at risk from changes in grades, behaviour, and attendance. The issue with this is that not all students will experience these side effects and will fly under the radar. The Upstream Project asks specific questions that will alert us that those that are under the radar need help. While school staff are sometimes aware of students who are at risk of homelessness, they are not necessarily equipped with the knowledge and resources to address these needs. Local community agencies, on the other hand, are equipped with the necessary tools and resources but are unaware of those who are in need of their services. As such, the need for a collaborative response to homelessness is important.
The process is completely voluntary and participants can choose to opt-out of the survey or services whenever they want. Our model is based on individuals wanting to be there and genuinely seeking help rather than being forced into something they are not comfortable with. All of the service providers who are involved with The Upstream Project ave a long history working with high-risk individuals and discretion is our game. We do work in a trauma-informed way that recognizes people who are experiencing the setbacks identified in the survey, might live with isolation and shame. Our services are designed to give a sense of belonging and enhance their resilience.
The earlier you intervene, the higher chance you have to prevent things from becoming acute. Once things become acute people are living with more complex factors and the solutions they seek becomes increasingly intensive, difficult to come by, and a burden financially.
The Upstream Project is the first of its kind in Canada; however, the project actually originates from Geelong, Australia. This Australian predecessor, called The Community of Schools and Services (COSS) Model, is a groundbreaking early intervention program, which works with schools and community partners to identify youth at high-risk of becoming homeless. For more information on The COSS Model, check out their website here.