Throughout interviews with other queer housing programs, experiences from Pride Home, and relevant research and evaluations, the following factors contribute to positive outcomes for 2SLGBTQ+ youth:
- Engaging in youth-led approaches to programming, policy-development, and operations
- Flexibility in support methods and models. This relies on an understanding that youth need love and care, no matter who they are. Just as within family settihgs, sometimes parents/gaurdians and children fight and disagree, this will happen in your group home. It is important that staff are able to preseve the relationship and continue to show up for youth, even when times are tough
- The cultivation of safe spaces and supportive relationships that youth can rely on
- Recognition that experience matters - 2SLGBTQ+ youth are the best teachers when it comes to developing appropriate policies and procedures, as well as relevant programming and services.
- Journey Maps: This is a unique case planning technique that Pride Home uses to support youth in goal setting and future planning
These indicators are woven into the programs and strategies identified below.
Key Resource: Pride Home Participant Handbook
As Pride Home developed, youth living in the home were key in identifying the tools and knowledge needed to best support them. This living document is a collaboration with Pride Home youth that evolves as the staff learn more and as different youth live in the home and provide input. The participant handbook helps the youth set expectations for themselves and for new youth joining the home. It also provides information on many aspects of living at Pride Home, referrals, and other people who will contribute to the support network.
Pride Home House Rules
Peer support is an effective method of supporting people who are experiencing barriers, stresses, or disappointment. Peer support occurs when people use their lived experience to provide support to youth through knowledge sharing, joint problem solving, and providing advice in dealing with different things. All housing staff should be provided with appropriate training in providing peer support, including not over-stepping boundaries.
Youth will navigate various life stressors throughout their time in the home. These could include family dynamics, relationships, school, and work, as well as gender-transition related stressors such as waiting for a gender-affirming surgery. Stressors will impact youth and disrupt their able to emotionally regulate. Housing staff will often be called upon to provide peer support and referrals during these times.
Food insecurity can be a major issues for queer youth and can be intensified depending in group living situations or depending on the location of your housing program. It is highly recommended that you provide food and groceries for the entire home as part of the general operations (rather than requiring that youth buy their own groceries). Staff should consult youth when developing the grocery list and invite youth to join for shopping or help with ordering groceries for delivery. If additional shopping is required in a particular week this should be discussed with staff and youth as neccessary.
Pride Home spends 700-1000/month on food for six residents and they found that it was easy to fundraise for food among community and corporate donors. For example, a local clothing store (Hardpressed) covered annual food costs for Pride Home for its first three years of operation.
An important part of building independance and resilience is learning how to cook! Although staff will likely cook some meals throughout the week, youth-led cooking includes allowing youth suggest meals and lead the cooking process with the support of housing staff. You might want to set up a cooking schedule or have weekly "family" dinners. Encouraging youth to eat together creates a sense of community and builds relationships between youth and with staff. Staff can provide support in how to follow recipes, prepare ingredients, and model required cooking techniques.
Build a chore list and teach youth how to clean and tidy their own and public spaces.
At Pride Home, all residents have weekly chores, but Thursday is cleaning day. On this day, Pride Home staff participate in cleaning the house, focusing on tasks that are not part of daily chores and modeling good hygiene and taking pride in one's space.
Having a designated vehicle might not be possible, but it can be very helpful.
Pride Home received a donated vehicle from Sherwood Chevrolet in Saskatoon and it was used to instead of employee's personal vehicles for all work-related errands (ie: groceries, appointments). This vehicle can also be used to take youth to medical and counselling appointments.
See the Pride Home policy manual for detailed transportation polices.
Youth are usually responsible for their own medication, unless otherwise indicated. It is very important that staff follow all medication procedures appropriately and that medication is stored in a secure area.
House meetings are places where youth can connect and bring up any concerns they may have, as well as concerns staff have about youth engagement, conflicts between youth and general updates about the home. This is also an opportunity for youth to let the staff know about changes they may want in the home and programming they would like the staff to look into.
Please see more in the Staffing section.
Residents in the home should have access to emergency and on-call contacts whenever staff are not in the home. These contacts can also include pre-existing community support programs. When deciding for your own organization what is best for you, consider the supports available in your community and whether they would adequately serve 2SLGBTQ+ youth in times of emergency.
Case planning is central for youth development, engagement, and goal setting. Case planning can include elements related to work, education, health, gender transition, relationships, family dynamics, or recovery (trauma, substance use, etc.), and although staff help to build a youth's case plan, they should always be youth directed.
Pride Home uses a model called "Journey Mapping" instead of Case Planning. [Say more about this]
Documentation and Reporting
When a staff has two or more staff, it is imperative that the staff are talking to one another regularly, filling each other in on what is happening, and debriefing any tough conversations or situations with youth that have happened during their shift. Debriefing sessions serve as staff peer-support as staff listen and suggest strategies on how to handle the situation with the youth, or how to destress after having tough shifts. This also allows all the staff to discuss whether any of the youth need extra support or are going through difficult experiences.
Working in a group home is very different from working in an office environment and Housing Managers should also debrief with staff regularly.
Shift notes capture conversations, descriptions of events and interactions with youth in writing that is detailed, concise and thorough. Writing can include details about updates in case management, meaningful conversations or incidents or involvement in programming. Shift notes help keep track of communication and serve as legal documentation in the case of allegations made against staff or other residents.
When there is an incident in the home - for example a violent episode, a visit from an unwanted guest, a fight between residents or between a youth and a staff - it is crucial that you take time to debrief with staff and all youth in the home, even those that weren't involved. Incidents such as these can have a big impact on the culture and safety of the home and when people are left out or excluded from the recovery conversations, it delays rebuilding of relationships and trust.
Regular (weekly or biweekly) programming can help youth build agency, expand relationships, learn and connect with cultural practices, and learn the skills they will need to thrive in the future. Programs can include house game nights, medicine picking, arts and crafts nights, various skills training sessions, and cooking "classes."
You can also connect with partner agencies to collaborate on community programs and activities such as sports activities, employment-prep sessions, or volunteer nights.
Evaluation & Tracking
Statistical and qualitative evaluation is necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of your program internally and externally. Be sure to set up an evaluation plan early on in your housing program and to train all staff on how to track and document services and outcomes.
When it comes to tracking services, count all services based on type:
- Peer Support - whenever a conversation with a youth goes beyond the “surface level”, whenever any support is given - (IE: friends, school, sleep schedule, trauma, etc.)
- Case Planning - when a Case Plan is done, when progress on the youth’s case plan is made either independently or with staff, or when a case conference is held.
- Programming - when a youth participates in any house programming, including house meetings and scheduled cooking.
- Community Appointments - when a youth has any sort of appointment, whether they are independent or accompanied by staff.
- Housing Referral - when a youth first moves in, or when any work is done to find a youth housing outside of Pride Home
- Employment Support - when youth are assisted in resumes, applying for jobs, job interviews, or have questions about any aspect of their current employment.
- Educational Support - when a youth is registered for school, new classes, or staff help with assignments is given.
- Outreach - when support of any type is given to persons who have never, or no longer, live in Pride Home
In each category, jot down comments and insights at the end of every week, alongside tallies and numerical counts to ensure both quantitative and qualitative tracking mechanisms. These simple strategies can provide a wealth of data and information when it comes to sharing your success stories with potential funders and incoming youth.
When it is time for youth to leave your housing program, you will want to be sure to provide needed resources, referrals, and supports to aid in the process.
Sometimes youth leave because they choose to leave, sometimes they age up and need to move on to another model of supported housing, and sometimes they are asked to leave the program due to it no longer being the right fit for them.
Departure planning should include a meeting with the youth where the housing staff or manager helps to determine youth needs as they move on to alternative housing. This process should be youth-led, but staff are there to conduct outreach and navigation to ensure that youth won't be existing into homelessness or housing insecurity. Once accommodations are set, it might be helpful to build a care package of donations or extra items to support them in their new home. Staff should also help youth in building budgets, future journey maps or other case plans to assist with the transition to independent living.