This blog post is the third part of the Eva’s Innovation Lab Spotlight series.

This National Housing Day (Nov. 22), Eva’s is offering up three tools to help youth-serving organizations centre young people with lived experience of homelessness and housing precarity in their work.

What does being ‘youth-centred’ tangibly mean and how can we design tools to bring this concept to life? These were questions asked and answered by Eva’s Impact and Innovation team as they worked with front-line staff, young people, service designers, and academics to build the Resiliency Interview Model Toolkit.

Eva’s built and tested the resiliency-based toolkit to interview 25 young people with lived experience of homelessness and housing precarity over the course of the six-month Journeys In and Out National Housing Strategy Solutions Lab. With results from the Solutions Lab to soon be released, we first wanted to offer up a series of tools that might be immediately helpful for others in conducting resiliency-based, youth-centred work:

Resiliency cards

Resiliency cards can prompt recognition of a young person’s acts of resiliency

  • What they are: Prompt cards that help young people identify their acts of resilience in the face of trauma and systems of oppression. Identifying acts of resilience allow the reframing of traumatic experiences in a way that centres the young person’s innate strength (e.g., “I found help”; “I said no”; “I left a place where I felt unsafe”; etc.).
  • When to use: When meeting with a young person (e.g., for case management, employment workshops, clinical meetings, research projects, etc.) and wanting to apply a resiliency-based lens to understanding the young person’s past experiences.
  • How to start: This is the easiest tool to use on its own. Print off and cut out the resiliency cards, keep them handy for conversations with young people, and use them as a conversation starter the next time you are asking about someone’s lived experiences.

Housing and Descriptor cards

Descriptor cards can invite discussion of a young person’s lived experience

  • What they are: A series of prompt cards that can guide conversations with young people about key demographic information (e.g., health conditions, housing situations, key relationships, etc.) while uncovering drivers of how and why their situations changed via open-ended questions (e.g., ‘what do you wish you had?’, ‘what was happening for you?’).
  • When to use: In a dialogue-based format, when seeking to understand the nuances of a young person’s past experiences beyond the demographic checkboxes of most standardized forms. This tool is helpful there is a desire to learn about a young person’s lived experiences in a more in-depth, substantial way (e.g., clinical meetings, case management, etc.) as a minimum of 30 minutes is suggested.
  • How to start: Using these prompt cards to guide the dialogue, invite the young person to discuss information they feel is important to understanding their context. When stuck, use the open-ended prompts to reveal less obvious needs and desires (i.e., ‘what do you wish you had?’ may bring up underlying mental health needs, shifting family dynamics, or education goals). This tool combines well with the resiliency cards (i.e., once a health issue has been identified using the descriptor cards, one might reframe the experience with resiliency cards like “I survived” or “I figured out how to be safe”).

Journey Maps

The Journey Map tool helps connect the card-based tools into a coherent story

  • What is it: A visual map of a young person’s journey up to and including present day.
  • When to use: When you become comfortable with the two sets of cards (resiliency and descriptor), this tool can serve as a way to help them connect individual descriptor and resiliency cards into a coherent (and possibly new) story of the young person’s life.
  • How to start: This tool strings together the individual resiliency cards and descriptor cards into one story across time and place. Place the resiliency cards and descriptor cards on the journey map to create a physical timeline of important moments and phases in a young person’s life.

Using these tools can have an immediate effect on how a young person views their own story. One young person, after describing years of trauma, found the resiliency cards reframed their past experiences in a new, hopeful light and triumphantly declared “the resiliency cards are my story.” While many other things must be done to shift an organization’s service model to being youth-centred and resiliency-based, we are hopeful that these tools are a useful step in the right direction.

This project entitled Journeys In and Out: Youth Homelessness Solutions Lab received funding from the National Housing Strategy under the NHS Solutions Labs, however, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them.