In June 2021, Canada established the Toronto Centre of Excellence on Youth Homelessness Prevention as a member of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
This was done in an effort to implement a global initiative that would address the increasingly exacerbated influence that homelessness has made on Canadian youth and the lack of available and sufficient resources to tackle this issue. With its introduction, the centre and the other related organizations in the UNECE region look to gain experience, research, and information.
York’s Stephen Gaetz, a professor in the Faculty of Education and president of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) and Melanie Redman, president and CEO of A Way Home Canada will be co-directing this initiative.
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit organization that utilizes research that is gathered from academics, policymakers, service providers, and people who have experienced homelessness in order to create solutions. Similarly, A Way Home Canada is an organization that aims to effect change in policies in order to create solutions for youth homelessness.
“Another benefit of the Toronto Centre of Excellence is that it connects our work in Canada to realize housing as a human right to a broad network of international partners and researchers who are also grappling with this question,” said Redman.
The centre intends to expand on the COH by looking to create change in youth homelessness and prevention in the 56 member states of the UNECE by mobilizing this change through public policy.
Calls for services of the centre are prevalent now more than ever due the current conditions of homelessness in Canada impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the context of the pandemic, we can see the folly of ignoring the role of prevention in addressing major social and health crises. The centre of Excellence will help us mobilize our efforts to transform our response to homelessness to focus on prevention,” Gaetz stated on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals webpage.
Redman also goes on to add that “The Toronto Centre of Excellence on Youth Homelessness Prevention at York builds on years of collaborative work already underway through our co-led Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab.”
Alongside the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, Redman notes that the centre has continued to fund, prototype, and mobilize cutting-edge research to prevent and end homelessness amongst Canadian youths.
“Our collective work is evidence-driven and solutions-focused. The designation as a United Nations Charter Centre of Excellence gives us an additional platform for global collaboration and knowledge exchange. It also provides an opportunity to elevate the issue of youth homelessness and prevention across all UNECE Member States.”