Duty to Assist

Exploring Duty to Assist, a legislative approach to prevent homelessness, to ensure the human right to safe and adequate housing is respected, protected and fulfilled.

We know from research that solutions to homelessness must involve more emphasis on homelessness prevention. Shifting the focus to upstream prevention means transforming the way government systems and institutions (child welfare, justice and health) function.

Canada and other countries have signed international agreements that protect the right to adequate housing. These agreements set out duties and responsibilities of all levels of government. However, these duties are not enforceable in practice.

Legislation has been implemented in the country of Wales that formally recognizes the right to adequate housing. Duty to Assist legislation is a rights-based model of homelessness prevention. There is interest in Canada in adapting Duty to Assist as part of our youth homelessness prevention strategy. 

What You’ll Learn:

  • Description and key elements of Duty to Assist legislation 
  • How a duty to provide housing assistance works 
  • A legislative approach to housing rights in the Canadian context
  • Steps for implementing Duty to Assist using human-centered design
  • Duty to Assist and an integrated system of care
Not Enrolled


  • 6 Lessons
  • 13 Topics
  • 2 Quizzes
  • Certificate of Completion


Thank you to Erika Morton, COH, and Mary-Jane McKitterick, A Way Home, for your wisdom, humour and humility and for helping to bring the training to life.

We would like to acknowledge the work of Stephen Gaetz (Canadian Observatory on Homelessness), Kaitlyn Schwan, Melanie Redman (A Way Home Canada), David French (A Way Home Canada) and Erin Dej for developing Duty to Assist in connection with youth homelessness prevention in Canada.

Related Materials

Cover image

Gaetz, S., Schwan, K., Redman, M., French, D., & Dej, E. (2018). Report 6. Duty to Assist: A Human Rights Approach to Youth Homelessness. Toronto, ON: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

The breakout report is part of a series of six reports drawn from:

Gaetz, S., Schwan, K., Redman, M., French, D., & Dej, E. (2018). The Roadmap for the Prevention of Youth Homelessness. A. Buchnea (Ed.). Toronto, ON: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

Cover image

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