Project Spotlight: A Way Home

A Way Home: Working Together to End Youth Homelessness

Strengthening youths’ relationships with family as well as other natural supports to respond to youth homelessness and prepare young people to transition to adulthood.


Primary: Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are at risk of or have experienced homelessness.

Secondary: Their family members and other natural supports.



Scale up and evaluate a mental health promotion intervention (Family and Natural Supports, FNS) designed to end and prevent youth homelessness by:

  • supporting youth to mediate conflicts;
  • helping to strengthen, rebuild and nurture their relationships with family and other natural supports;
  • introduce strategies to reduce isolation;
  • reduce other factors that increase risk of homelessness and disengagement from school and work;
  • create greater opportunities for participation in education and employment; and
  • assist young people to plan for the future (including the recovery) with a focus on well-being, education and employment goals.


  • FNS programs are delivered in-person, on-site within organizations and in the community.
  • The program may be operationalized as a standalone service delivery model or set of activities provided by an agency or organization.
  • Delivery of FNS programs is extremely nimble and allowed for those doing the work to adapt this work quickly within the context of COVID. This flexibility allowed the programs to thrive.
  • A Way Home will implement this intervention through training, one-on-one coaching, program support, and facilitating dedicated communities of practice.



  • 10 youth-serving organizations

Implementation sites

  • Organizations from provinces across Canada selected in partnership with the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness


  • Service providers noted emerging mental health needs among youth served by their organizations including significant increases in feeling isolated (91%), anxiety (85%), depression (71%), increase in symptoms related to pre-existing mental health conditions (67%), suicidal ideation (36%) and self-harm (25%) (Thulien et al, 2020).
  • Introducing FNS can help facilitate the kind of foundation needed for organizations moving forward to respond to the current and emerging mental health needs.
  • A truly effective response to youth homelessness must consider the important role the family and community connections can play for any young person.


In the words of the project team members

“The family natural supports model is the foundation for all of the work we’re doing, whether it’s in service or shelter, whether it’s in group care, whether it’s in transitional housing, or housing first for youth programs, that we need to be including families, natural supports caregivers, and chosen families for young people and seeing them as part as the solution and not seeing them as a barrier or part of the problem. This is a major shift in our thinking.”

Key protective factors

  • Positive family relationships
  • Supportive relationships in the community
  • Work/Employment
  • Education
  • Housing

Key approaches

  • Trauma-informed