Designing Your Housing Team

Your housing staff are the most essential elements to your housing program. They provide the structure and support that youth need and serve as mentors, friends, counsellors, and coaches for the youth in your home. 

Keep in mind that your staff complement may evolve and adapt as your housing program grows and changes. We have outlined different types of staff roles in correspondence to different needs. Some of these roles might be combined at the start of your housing project. 

The house manager can be hired before your house even opens to help with design, policy-development, and fund development. When the home is operational, your housing manager will oversee all operations and will work with housing staff, the parent organization (if applicable), board members, and other stakeholders such as funders, government, and other housing agencies.  

Other duties include:  

  • Hiring and supervising housing staff 
  • Developing staffing schedules 
  • Developing and revising house policies, principles, and practices  
  • Managing household operations (repaires and maintenance, landlord relationship, budgets, renovations etc.) 
  • Fund development and stakeholder relations  

Required for starting: This is a key staff member for your 2SLGBTQ+ youth home - you will need either a housing manager or coordinator (see below) for start-up, depending on your housing model. 

A housing coordinator works in tandem with the housing manager to oversee intake, programs, and services within the home. If you do not have a housing coordinator, the housing manager will perform a lot of these tasks, and if you do not have a housing manager, the housing coordinator will also complete some of the management tasks. 

Other duties include: 

  • Overseeing youth outreach, intake, and move-outs  
  • House record-keeping and daily documentation 
  • Planning programs and activities 
  • Shopping for groceries and supplies 
  • Direct support for residents and other staff 

Required for starting: This is a key staff member for your 2SLGBTQ+ youth home - you will need either a housing manager (see above) or coordinator for start-up, depending on your housing model.

Housing support workers provide front-line support to youth living in the home. They might support youth with doctor's appointments, homework, cooking, and cleaning and are responsible for planning and running weekly programming and activities. Usually a combination of full time and part time support workers works best, with shifts that range from 11am to 11pm, depending on the ages of youth in the home. If youth are 16 and up, you generally don't need overnight staffing and for youth that are 18 and up, onsite support workers might only have to be onsite for 4-5 hours per day, usually in the late afternoons/early evenings. 

Other duties include: 

  • Documentation and reporting 
  • Peer support and mentorship 
  • Service navigation and referrals  
  • Cleaning and cooking 
  • Running programs and activities 

An outreach coordinater can help to plan and implement activities and programs outside of the home, as well as to support youth in eduactional, vocational, and volunteer activities.  

Additional activities: 

  • Work closely with youth as they are moving out of the home and after they have moved out to continue providing support services and referrals 
  • Work with other 2SLGBTQ+ youth who experience housing insecurity, but don't live within your group home 
  • Raise awareness surrounding the home 
  • Work with partner agencies and providers to build awareness about 2SLGBTQ+ youth housing initiatives and how to best support 2SLGBTQ+ youth 
  • Participate in fundraising efforts 

A live-in mentor is a person with lived experience who lives onsite - either in a basement apartment, or a private room. Usually they are not required to act as a staff member in terms of providing programming and activities, but they are onsite in case of emergencies and can provide casual peer support to youth in the home.  

A live-in mentor reduces the need for 24/7 on-call planning and staffing and can work very well for more independent housing models. However, it requires clear boundaries, designated time-off and time away from the home, and clear expectations so that it is a manageable experience for the mentor.   

A counsellor provides mental health and emotional supports. You likely won't need a counsellor onsite, but it is valuable to be connected to a counsellor who is experienced with 2SLGBTQ+ issues and knowledgeable about youth mental health, gender transition, gender-based violence, homophobia/transphobia, and family dynamics. If your organization doesn't have the financial capacity to have a counsellor on staff, this need can be filled through partnerships with other organizations. 

Two Spirit and Indigiqueer youth can be supported by Indigenous elders and comprehensive cultural programming. As well, ensuring that all youth in the home have access to elders in the queer community can help them to understand what their future might look like and to see themselves getting older as 2SLGBTQ+ people. 

Intergenerational relationships can also support youth as they transition out of the home and into more independent living environments. 

Hiring

One of the most important aspects of your housing program are the staff as they work with residents daily and provide guidance, mentorship, and support. The following list includes some key considerations for hiring staff for a 2SLGBTQ+ youth home.

Representation matters and one of the primary reasons for setting up a 2SLGBTQ+-specific youth home is so that gender and sexually diverse youth can see that they are not alone.

This means that it is important to hire staff who are themselves 2SLGBTQ+, and who have gone through experiences such as gender transition and coming out, as these experiences ensure that your staff can connect with youth in the home and support them through these and other processes. It is also important to have staff the represent the racial and cultural diversity of youth in the home. For example, if you have a lot of Indigenous youth living in the home, you will want to ensure that you have Indigenous staff and that you provide options for cultural programming. 

Hiring based on youth demographics also provides role models for youth so that they see a future of growth and possibility. 

Similarly to hiring representative staff, hiring should prioiritize staff with lived experiences that are similar to the youth's experiences. This builds trust and connection. 

Examples of lived experiences:

  • Struggles with mental health and experiences with trauma recovery
  • Member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, especially people who are trans and/or gender diverse
  • Experiences with addictions and other coping mechanisms
  • (BIPOC) Black, Indigenous, Person of Colour 
Hiring staff with relevant educational experience can provide additional value in operating your housing program. This can include:
  • A youth care worker certificate or diploma
  • Education in gender studies, Indigenous studies
  • Education in social work, psychology, sociology 
  • Training in supporting 2SLGBTQ+ youth and housing
Relevant work experience includes having worked in the following capacities:
  • Working in a group home or other housing program
  • Working as a youth care worker
  • Working as a mental health support worker
  • Working with people with disabilities 
Lastly, research shows that staff that are committed to the mission and vision of the organization and home and who see themselves in that mission are able to contribute great value to the youth and overall outcomes. This includes hiring staff who: 
  • Want to make genuine connections and build relationships with 2SLGBTQ+ youth 
  • Are passionate about making a difference in the youth’s lives and supporting them through various processes and changes
  • Believe in the value of community and community-building as a way to support positive outcomes for 2SLGBTQ+ youth

Training

Even if staff have previous training in housing and related areas, it is valuable to provide time and resources for comprehensive training. Ground level trainings that should be provided to all incoming staff for a 2SLGBTQ+ youth home include: 

  • Peer Support 
  • Introduction to the queer community
  • Introduction to trans and gender diversity, including training on available resources for medical and mental health support, as well as barriers to access that youth will face 
  • Education on STBBIs including HIV/AIDS
  • Introduction to home policies, procedures, and guiding principles
  • Safety planning and operations

The following training programs are often mandatory for people working in housing programs. Sometimes staff will have already completed these trainings and won't need to retake them if they were completed recently: 

  • ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) 
  • First Aid and CPR 

The following secondary-level trainings are highly recommended: 

  • Mental Health First Aid 
  • De-escalation training 
  • Harm Reduction training 
  • Trauma Informed Care
  • PART (Professional Assault Response Training)

Supporting Staff

Remember that supporting youth is really hard work and doing it well requires skill, expertise, and emotional labour. Be sure to build in practices that support your staff: 

  1. Build in a regular practice of checking in/debriefing when staff changeover occurs (this can be supported by scheduling an hour of overlap between shifts).
  2. Implement a policy that requires a check-in/debrief with a manager or supervisor following incidents, significant events, or difficult shifts. 
  3. Your housing manager should always review case notes, incident notes, and check in with staff daily.
  4. Prioritize team-building between staff. Often in a setting such as a supported group home, staff aren't on shift at the same time and can feel as though they are working alone. Reminding them that they are part of a team can help to build communication and inter-organizational support networks.
  5. If your housing project is connected to a parent organization, provide opportunities for youth to build connections with non-housing staff to expand the circle of support for youth
  6. Ensure when scheduling case workers they recieve two consequtive days off so they can attend to their wellness. 

Scheduling

Shifts

Your staffing shifts will depend on your model and the ages of your residents. For a home that serves older 2SLGBTQ+ youth (option A), you might only have one staff scheduled each day for a 12pm-8pm shift, while for a home that serves younger youth (option B) you might have multiple staff throughout the day.

Option A:

  • Full time Housing Coordinator, onsite: Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00 - 8:00pm
  • Part-time Housing Support Worker, onsite: Sunday and Monday: 12:00 - 8:00
  • Housing Manager (part-time focus on home): Monday to Friday shifts, not always onsite, but checks in with staff daily

Option B:

  • Full time Housing Coordinator, onsite: Monday to Friday: 9:00 - 5:00pm
  • Two full-time Housing Support Workers, onsite. Shift #1: Tuesday to Saturday, 3:00 - 11:00pm; Shift #2: Thursday to Monday: 12:00 - 8:00pm
  • Full time Housing Manager: Monday to Friday, 9:00 - 5:00, on and off site, daily check-ins when staff overlap 

Debriefing and checking-in with staff between shifts or during shift overlaps is very important and all staff should complete daily shift notes to ensure expedient communication. 

Please see below for a Shift Notes Template.

On Call Staff

Whenever there are no staff within the home, it is critical to have a management-level staff member who is on-call. Both youth and other staff should always have access to the on-call phone number, and know when and how to reach someone in the case of an emergency.

Being on-call can be emotional and mentally taxing and requires careful scheduling and consideration. See the attached sample on-call policy for some ideas as to how to structure this role. 

Staff and house meetings

Staff meetings should occur regularly to ensure that relevant information is shared amongst staff and that staff can work together to support youth in the home. Staff meetings are also a good time to discuss upcoming events/programming, organize transportation to youth appointments, to debrief incidents, and to participate in workshops and training. Be sure to also build in one-on-one check-ins, time for debriefing and opportunities for open feedback amongst staff as this helps to support both the youth and your staff.