A new transitional housing project in York Region aims to create the conditions for change.

360°kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent homelessness by helping youth at risk, or in crisis, transition to a state of safety and stability. This blog will discuss the Black Youth Housing project, an upcoming initiative led by 360°kids which will explore what housing model works best to support Black youth who are experiencing homelessness in York region.

The Problem: An Understudied Crisis 

Research on homelessness in Black communities is limited, but the available data shows that Black youth are overrepresented in populations experiencing homelessness. The lack of research that is specific to Black youth is partially connected to how disaggregated race-based data in Canada is limited.

When Black youth are mentioned in existing research, it is typically done in comparison to the larger population of youth experiencing homelessness, rather than being highlighted as its own distinct category. This has made it challenging to know or estimate the actual number of Black youth who are experiencing homelessness at any given moment. Despite this, it is worth noting that in the urban centres of York, Toronto and their surrounding areas, those who work in the homelessness sector are well aware of the overrepresentation of Black youth among youth who are experiencing homelessness.

One way to explore this disparity is by examining how race interacts with pathways into homelessness. We can illustrate this with the example of Black youth interacting with the child welfare and criminal justice systems.

These systems disproportionately intrude in the lives of Black youth and their families, reducing their economic prospects and well-being. The disruptions caused by the intrusion of child welfare agencies undermine parent-child bonding for the affected families. It also undermines the youth attachments to institutions such as the educational systems. This in turn affects their educational and economic prospects later in life while simultaneously making them vulnerable to involvement in the youth justice system

The negative impacts highlighted above interact with other structural drivers of youth homelessness to escalate an already heightened situation. Examples include inadequate mental health care access, being pushed out of the educational system through expulsion and suspensions, underemployment, economic precarity and the ever-increasing lack of affordable housing. 

Despite this stark reality, we can provide youth with brighter futures. Homelessness is a complex issue, but it can be meaningfully addressed through research and action. The Black Youth Housing Project promises to deliver a transitional housing model that could transform the lives of Black youth. 

Opportunities for Change

The Black Youth Housing Project is guided by representatives from youth-serving, advocacy, and policy-focused organizations. These are groups who encounter the over-representation of Black youth in the homelessness population on a regular basis.

This project will bring collaborators who support Black youth experiencing homelessness together to: 

  1. Better understand how to provide culturally relevant services to Black youth experiencing homelessness and
  2. Inform the development of a long-term transitional home for Black youth experiencing homelessness. 360kids has secured a site for the transitional home, expected to be operational in 2024. 

It also aims to provide 5 key benefits for communities working to address Black youth homelessness:

  1. Understanding the needs and challenges of youth are currently/have previously experienced homelessness.
  2. Identifying pathways or conditions associated with homelessness.
  3. Informing the development of a youth housing model with cultural and age-appropriate services.
  4. Informing the development of preventative measures to support youth at-risk of homelessness. 
  5. Promoting high quality research to fill in gaps in the current literature around Black youth homelessness in Canada. 

Your Voice is Needed, Share Your Perspectives!

The project is currently recruiting African, Caribbean, and/or Black youth aged 16-34, who have experienced homelessness or housing insecurity in the Greater Toronto Area within the last five years. We would also like to hear from those who work with Black youth in and around York region. Participants will be invited to an online or in person interview or focus group. All participants will be compensated for their time and participation in research is entirely voluntary. 

Interesting in participating? Contact Principal Investigator, Neil Price, at blackyouthhousingproject@logicaloutcomes.net to get started.