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Making the Prevention of Homelessness a Priority: The Role of Social Innovation

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  • Stephen Gaetz

Abstract

Mass homelessness emerged in Canada in the wake of neoliberal policies that reduced government production of housing and other supportive measures. Efforts to reduce homelessness have occurred in three stages: 1) an emergency response in the 1990s that consisted mostly of investment in shelters, soup kitchens, and day programs, 2) the implementation of community plans to end homelessness, combined with the adoption of Housing First as a strategy that seeks to provide reliable shelter as a first step to anyone without it, followed by other remedial services, and 3) the recent development in Canada of early intervention strategies to prevent homelessness from its inception. The second stage was highly successful in dealing with the situation of chronically homeless adults, and many communities have begun to see reductions in homelessness. However effective, this approach does not break the cycle by intercepting potentially homeless individuals in their youth, which is when it begins for many people. Canada is at the beginning stages of the move towards a stronger focus on prevention, aided by a social innovation agenda to identify, design, test, and evaluate preventive interventions to determine which ones will be most strategically effective, setting the stage for implementation and going to scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Gaetz, 2020. "Making the Prevention of Homelessness a Priority: The Role of Social Innovation," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 79(2), pages 353-381, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:79:y:2020:i:2:p:353-381
    DOI: 10.1111/ajes.12328
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tsemberis, S. & Gulcur, L. & Nakae, M., 2004. "Housing First, Consumer Choice, and Harm Reduction for Homeless Individuals with a Dual Diagnosis," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 94(4), pages 651-656.
    2. Slesnick, Natasha & Zhang, Jing & Brakenhoff, Brittany, 2017. "Personal control and service connection as paths to improved mental health and exiting homelessness among severely marginalized homeless youth," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 121-127.
    3. Shinn, M. & Greer, A.L. & Bainbridge, J. & Kwon, J. & Zuiderveen, S., 2013. "Efficient targeting of homelessness prevention services for families," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 103(S2), pages 324-330.
    4. Peter K. Mackie, 2015. "Homelessness Prevention and the Welsh Legal Duty: Lessons for International Policies," Housing Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(1), pages 40-59, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Curtis Smith & Ernesto Castañeda, 2020. "Sick Enough? Mental Illness and Service Eligibility for Homeless Individuals at the Border," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(8), pages 1-23, August.

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