Homelessness Mentions in Policy

All school-related policies mention schools are to be drug and alcohol-free zones. The Hamilton, Ontario school district allows medical cannabis, and it says “discourage,” not “prevent” drugs and alcohol.

Unelaborated mentions of homelessness also occur in policy plans and reports. Although they are not policies, policy plans and reports nevertheless can indicate possible future policy directions, and they illustrate by contrast what is missing from present policy and/or what has not been translated into policy yet. For example, the authors of a report on student well-being from the Ontario Ministry of Education, entitled What We Heard: Well-Being in Our Schools, Strength in our Society, claimed to have consulted “4,500 parents, educators, students, partners and community members” to write the report, stating:

This process of collecting feedback was far-reaching. We made sure we listened to a wide range of people who may not always have their voices heard. We heard from youth who have been homeless. We heard from transgender youth accessing shelter services and newcomers to Canada.

Yet, the “voices” of “youth who have been homeless,” or “transgender youth accessing shelter services and newcomers to Canada” (the latter of whom are disproportionately at risk of becoming homeless) do not reappear in the rest of the report, which never mentions the word “homeless” again. A rhetorical pattern occurs in both this report and the mandatory parts of provincial and territorial curricula, of naming the issue of homelessness or the people who are homeless youth, then not analyzing, explaining, recommending, or mandating anything more about youth homelessness. While this report is not a policy, it contains some of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s more recent stated policy goals about how “to understand and support well-being in our schools.” It represents for a stated public audience what the future policy directions of the Ontario Ministry of Education are, so it suggests by omission of any elaboration on the topic that explicit substantive engagement with youth homelessness (beyond naming it) will not be one of these policy directions—following the pattern and precedent of every education policy documents reviewed from across Canada.