Policy Strategy

Preventative strategies that are directly targeted towards early intervention can be very effective in reducing youth homelessness. The goal of early intervention is to address the immediate risk of homelessness youth may face, and then provide these young people and their families with the specific supports they need. The creation of effective prevention strategies means that governments should be working to identify youth who are at risk of homelessness, and then working to develop further interventions that reduce this overall risk.

The Upstream Project Canada is a social policy-based solution targeted to prevent youth homelessness.

The program is focused on the idea that every young person who becomes homeless has, at some point, interacted with the school system. These means it is very likely that they have engaged with an adult, like a guidance counsellor or teacher, who was unsure of the supports this young person had or would need. The Upstream Project Canada utilizes this interaction to identify at-risk youth and then connect them to the full supports they need. 


The project has been developed collaboratively by multiple organizations and utilizes the partnership and collaboration of multiple agencies, in order to create a coordinated system of care that can provide effective wrap-around services for at-risk students and their families. This would include social service agencies that specifically provide services to youth, school boards who oversee their education and development, and community partners that provide services like mental health supports.

The Upstream Project Canada uses an assessment tool to measure participating youths’ status. This includes:

  • Self-esteem

  • Resilience

  • Psychological distress

  • Self-efficacy

  • Connectedness to home

  • Connectedness to their school and community as a whole

This assessment then helps to identify what supports a student requires. A follow-up screening interview is then conducted by a service provider. This allows for insight into the personal narrative of the youth, so that the program may gain knowledge into their specific circumstances. This interview also provides greater clarity in terms of responses highlighted by the youth in the survey. Each step of this assessment process ultimately allows for a more accurate assessment of the individual student’s needs.


After the assessment process, students who are identified as being anywhere from temporarily disconnected, to facing chronic disconnection are offered wrap-around supports that they may need, including referrals and connections to various social programs and services. This can include case management, and reassessment as needed to track changes in different areas such as health and education.


Ultimately, The Upstream Project Canada has several goals:

  • Increase in students’ overall well-being

  • Ensure access to safe, secure housing

  • Increase in school engagement

  • Increase in secondary school graduation rates

  • Reduction in family breakdown, dropping out of school, and involvement in crime are aligned objectives