The Doorway Approach

The Doorway Approach:

In the late 80’s The Doorway piloted as an experiment in social change addressing young people living on the streets in Calgary. A sociological frame started with learning directly from the young people. An understanding of the differences between street culture and mainstream culture led to an awareness that the definition of ‘on the street’ was and still is today different than ‘homeless’.

‘On the street’ does not refer to a socio-economic condition or environmental circumstance. Rather, it describes a belief system and a conceptual perspective. The streets aren’t under your feet; they’re in your scalp. Helping young people transition off of the streets involves changing the way they view themselves and the world around them. -Street Culture 2.0. An Epistemology of Street Dependent Youth, JT (Jerry) Fest

The Doorway Approach engages both young people living on the streets and mainstream community members in a self-determined planning process and cross-cultural exchange to make these lasting changes.

Our Principles Based Approach:

  • Integrity / Dignity
  • Acceptance without judgement or prejudice
  • People who listen to each other learn from each other
  • Life is such that things do not always work
  • Forgiveness (Every day is a new day)
  • All actions / choices affect other people

The Process:

The Doorway process is based on a step by step contracting process. Participants choose each successive step they need to take to get off the streets. Participants use MYPLAN to write their plan of action. They then discuss it with a volunteer or staff member. Genuine conversation is key. This planned step is their contract, and commitment to themselves. Participants are paid a $15 incentive for each contract they negotiate to a maximum of 8 steps per month.

The Success:

Young people define benchmarks of success as the ability to find and sustain employment and a safe place to live. They also recognize they have acquired planning and problem-solving skills which they use to move forward in their lives and to feel hope in their futures. Since 1988, a consistent average of 7 out of 10 participants achieve personal goals to leave the street culture/economy.

*Participants have taught us success in getting off of the streets is not just about changing where you sleep. – read their written work: Making Change

Why it works:

Many factors contribute to the success rate including:

  • Self-determination: Participants are entirely responsible for determining what their goals, objectives and steps are going to be. In taking responsibility for their choices, they are also able to fully take credit for their successes.
  • Self-directed: The Doorway believes planning your own life nurtures engagement, accountability and is the most sustainable option.
  • Respect: Participants come as equal players to the environment and are always treated with dignity and respect.  The Doorway understands respect builds trust.
  • Business Oriented Space: The Doorway is located outside of downtown, reminding young people of a life outside of downtown. As well the business-oriented space enables young people to practice and observe non-street behavior and provides them with access to telephone and computers for job searching and other personal business.
  • Cross-Cultural: Participants and community members learn from each other to understand what is needed to move into mainstream economy and community. Young people learn by observing, listening and asking.
  • Community Members: Young people need to be welcomed by mainstream people who believe in their potential, until they believe in themselves. Volunteers help change young people’s views of the world, and their beliefs about themselves, and their future.
  • Learning to Plan: Participants begin their 24 months by setting small goals. They figure out the steps required to meet these goals and learn to plan. Breaking seemingly impossible tasks into small manageable steps can be a new experience as well as a life-long skill they will carry forward.
  • Experiencing Success: Setting goals, whether big or small, and achieving them allows participants to experience success in their lives, builds self-esteem and lays the foundation for future success.
  • Incentives: The incentive is clean legal money earned and money to be proud of. It is a piece that The Doorway believes builds trust and self-esteem. When the Doorway first opened in 1988 it was suggested pay for performance works in the marketplace so why not try it with young people leaving the streets?
  • Long-term Support: Young people have taught us leaving the streets takes a lot of hard-work, dedication, planning, learning and re-planning which is why it’s a 24 month opportunity offered to each participant.