Melanie Redman

A Way Home Canada

Toronto, ON

melanie redman ashoka canada fellow

Sector Impact

Children & Youth

Human Rights & Equality


The Challenge: Every night, 6,000 young people in Canada have nowhere safe to sleep. These kids are at increased risk for exploitation, violence, victimization, and abuse. And the longer they stay on the streets, the worse their prospects become. We’re so focused on responding to the immediate crises of youth homelessness, though, that we’ve neglected a key strategy in tackling it permanently.

melanie redman ashoka canada

The Solution: With A Way Home Canada, Melanie Redman is shifting the conversation and strategy around youth homelessness from reaction to prevention. Rather than “managing” youth homelessness through emergency services, A Way Home takes a proactive, collective, evidence-driven approach that focuses on improving outcomes for young people and their families — by making sure they don’t become homeless in the first place.

Every young person has the right to safe, adequate, and affordable housing. Youth homelessness can be prevented, and shouldn’t happen in a caring and prosperous society.

A Way Home Canada has sparked an international movement to end youth homelessness, breaking down silos and sectors to co-create communities where every kid has a safe place to call home.


A preventive approach to youth homelessness

Solving youth homelessness won’t happen by providing more and better shelters, soup kitchens, or transitional housing. It’ll happen by preventing kids from becoming homeless in the first place.

That’s the simple, yet profound, premise behind A Way Home Canada, a national coalition that’s reimagining solutions to youth homelessness through transformations in policy, planning, and practice. Ashoka Fellow Melanie Redman is AWH’s cofounder, president, and CEO.

Preventing youth homelessness — not to mention homelessness writ large — says Melanie, requires creativity, experimentation, and measurement. “We want evidence to drive all our solutions.” To that end, AWH has teamed up with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness at York University to create the Making the Shift (MtS) Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab, which is a Government of Canada Research Tri-Council Networks of Centres of Excellence. In 2021, Making the Shift also received the designation as a Geneva UN Charter Centre of Excellence. The lab, says Melanie, is continually trying, innovating, failing — and succeeding — in real time with the goal of building up a solid knowledge base of solutions to prevent homelessness.

AWH has also created the Roadmap for Ending Youth Homelessness, a conceptual framework that defines and provides practical examples of different prevention strategies, as well as who’s responsible at the systems level for each intervention and how they can be part of the solution. The framework is part of AWH’s holistic approach, which recognizes that preventing youth homelessness is a collective effort that requires breaking down the silos between key actors — including young people with lived experience of homelessness.

“When we consult with these youth, they can list, for every stage of their journey into homelessness, multiple interventions that would have helped them and their families stop that trajectory. And so, our focus is very clear. We need to provide wraparound supports and interventions, for as long as necessary, to bolster young people and their families and stop that slide into homelessness. And for those who do end up homeless, the goal is to get them out, and then prevent them from ever falling into that situation again.”

AWH Canada has sparked an international movement, with branches in the United States (launched at the White House in 2016), Australia, the UK, and several European countries. This international network, says Melanie, “is a wonderful platform for knowledge exchange. We can look at see what jurisdictions around the world are doing, and adapt those ideas for communities and contexts.” She cites Wales’s “duty to assist” mandate, which enshrines public agencies to work together to take fulsome action within a certain timeframe once they become aware of a young person facing homelessness.

“As a result, homelessness has dropped dramatically. So how can we adopt that duty to assist in Canada — and how might we shift it to a duty to prevent? It’s exciting.”

Highlights from the Network

stand up for kids national award winner
2022 National Award Winner and Finalists: Celebrating extraordinary people who improve the lives of abused, abandoned or neglected children or youth
Networks of Centres of Excellence
Melanie Redman Leads the Launch of Innovative Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab
Major homelessness prevention project will help young people upgrade education and skills
roadmap prevention youth homelessness cover
New report sets out roadmap for prevention of youth homelessness in Canada
UNECE establishes Toronto Centre of Excellence on Youth Homelessness Prevention at York University
youth homelessness
Invisible and alone: Young people without a home face increased risks during pandemic
on the way home podcast logo
On the Way Home Podcast Episode: Melanie Redman