Making the Shift & Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care)


What is Making the Shift?  

Making the Shift (MTS) is a national research project led by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University looking to help prevent and end youth homelessness in Canada. In Toronto, the MTS project is looking to hear from young people with lived experience of the child welfare system as part of studying a new model of service called Housing First for Youth which will be delivered by WoodGreen's new Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care) program. 


What is Housing First for Youth?  

Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) is a program model and philosophy grounded in housing as a human right, which means that everyone has the right to safe and affordable housing, along with age-appropriate supports which focus on health, well-being, life skills, education, employment, and social inclusion. For more information about Housing First for Youth please see the report This is Housing First for Youth which can be found at 


Who is eligible? 

To be eligible for Making the Shift and Free 2 Be, a young person must be:

• between the ages of 17 and 24 (at intake to the program);

• crown ward (or similar status) transitioning/who has transitioned out of care;

• willing to work with program staff;

• currently or willing to reside within Metro Toronto;

• willing to live independently;


How do I get involved or make a referral? 

here to download a copy of the Making the Shift referral form or email to connect with our program team. Referral sources will also be asked to accompany the young person to the first interview and to be available during and immediately after the first interview in case the young person needs the support of an adult they already know and trust. 

If you are a frontline worker, check out our combined
Referral Tip Sheet and Referral Script to help guide discussions about Making the Shift with young people who may be interested in getting involved. 


Why should I participate in the Making the Shift Study?  

Participation in the MTS study provides additional benefits to existing supports and services young people receive and does not limit or take away from pre-existing resources that a participant may already be accessing in the community. The MTS study provides an important opportunity for young people to have their voices heard in a nonjudgmental environment. Participating in this important project also gives young people the opportunity to  help policy makers, funders and service providers better understand their lived experiences, which may inform meaningful change.

All participants will be compensated for their time, and provided transit fare. The MTS study also provides young people with a 50/50 chance to receive a housing subsidy, comprehensive services and support from the WoodGreen's Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care) team. 


What is required of participants in the study?  

Young people will be asked to complete a series of interviews with Phase 1 ending in March 2019. Interviews will range from 30-90 minutes, and take place in a comfortable space of the young person’s choosing. Questions will be asked about young peoples' housing, health, and social integration, among other things. At the end of the first interview, the young person will be randomized into HF4Y program or to the group which will continue to be supported by services available in the community.


Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care)  

WoodGreen’s Free 2 Be is a new youth-centred, trauma-informed program which supports young people ages 17-24 (at time of intake to the program) who have been involved with the child welfare system and are now transitioning to life after care. This program is a partner in the Making the Shift study.

Grounded in the Housing First for Youth philosophy and model of support, Free 2 Be staff work with young people to help them access and maintain safe and appropriate housing while providing them with holistic services and supports. Taking a strengths-based, positive youth development approach, WoodGreen acknowledges the critical importance of human connection, positive adult role modelling and permanency as key factors in helping youth leaving care thrive as they move forward into adulthood.

WoodGreen’s Free 2 Be team collaborates with sector partners already supporting young people transitioning out of care as we collectively work toward better outcomes for young people by creating meaningful opportunities for them to thrive.

 Origins of Free 2 Be & Our Funders  

The seed of Free 2 Be was planted in 2015, when WoodGreen began to explore the needs for coordinated housing and community-based services for young people transitioning out of the child welfare system in Toronto. With extensive experience developing and delivering innovative housing programs with holistic supports, WoodGreen successfully received a Seed Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and began to engage key stakeholders in the child welfare sector to explore whether there were opportunities to leverage our assets to support collaboration and improve outcomes for youth leaving care. WoodGreen established a Youth Transitions Advisory Council (YTAC) made up of 8 experts with lived experience as crown wards who have transitioned out of care, and led extensive stakeholder engagement activities with individuals and youth-serving organizations across Canada.

More than 60 young people with lived experience and over 200 sector stakeholders (including children's aid societies, youth shelters, government, and foundations) engaged in meetings, research and co-design activities with WoodGreen staff, offering insight into the barriers that youth face transitioning out of care, and providing feedback that would inform the design and development of a new WoodGreen program, Free 2 Be (Housing First for Youth Leaving Care).

In 2017, A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University launched the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab. WoodGreen’s Free 2 Be program was selected and received initial program funding from Making the Shift as one of three national demonstration sites delivering Housing First for Youth. WoodGreen’s Free 2 Be is the only site that is exclusively serving young people transitioning out of care.