Pandemic-Proof: Synthesizing Real-World Knowledge of Promising Mental Health and Substance Use Practices for Young People Who Are Experiencing or Have Experienced Homelessness

Thulien, Naomi | $49,548

Ontario Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

An estimated 35,000-40,000 Canadian youth (aged 13 – 24 years) experience homelessness at some point during the year and at least 6,000 on any given night. Most of these young people have experienced some form of trauma and really struggle with challenges around mental health and substance use. We also know that young people continue to struggle once they leave homelessness; many continue to live in poverty and feel very isolated and lonely. COVID‑19 has highlighted that this pandemic is negatively impacting some more than others. This is particularly true for the young people we serve. Many have lost jobs, do not feel safe where they are isolating, or feel a bit lost without any day-to-day structure. At the same time, physical distancing measures mean most places providing mental health and substance use supports are closed. Still, despite these challenges, we are hearing from our colleagues on the front lines that some are trying really innovative things to connect with young people who have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. In fact, we believe that some of these ideas may be really forward thinking and should continue after the pandemic is over. We want to do three things: 1) Send out an electronic survey to folks across Canada working with young people who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness to understand how they have adapted their practices. 2) Do a “deeper dive” and interview those who are doing particularly innovative things to understand what seems to be working well and for whom (e.g., youth who identify as female vs. youth who identify as male). 3) Share this information quickly with folks on the front lines and in government in a way that is easy to understand and helps them make informed decisions.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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