You can be an agent of change on T4C Day Feb. 1st

You can be an agent of change on T4C Day Feb. 1st

For 8 years, YWS ran the Tokens4Change event each February. For the year leading up to the event, students created art installations that signified for them the issues around youth homelessness.   On the day of the event, the youth displayed and performed their creations. At the same time an army of over 600 volunteers spread out throughout the TTC system and the PATH system accepting donations in support of YWS. This event raised funds to support the high cost of transit for the youth we support. The funds have also supported the wrap around support programs operated by YWS.

Times have changed. Tokens are being phased out. Presto is in. And technology has changed the way we exchange money. It was time for a rebranding. Rebranding is a difficult task, especially when it involves a recognized and successful event such as T4C. There was a certain level of stewardship we felt in adopting a new name. We had to look at what is at the core of the event and how to then transfer that into a new name. It is still one youth, one gesture at a time. We still want to make change. We know Torontonians want to help us make those changes and we all want to make those changes now, it is time. It is time for change and the time is now! Time4Change was born.

You can be an agent of change this Friday, February 1st. A single small gesture can change the life of a youth in need. Simply by texting you can donate. Donating some of your spare Loonies and Toonies can allow you to proudly tell your co-workers that you changed the life of someone today! When they ask why you can tell them that youth homelessness is not acceptable and that it is time for change.

For more information about Time4Change and how to support YWS go to: www.time4changenow.com

This holiday season you’ve embraced the youth who call YWS home

This holiday season you’ve embraced the youth who call YWS home

As we head into 2019, our thanks to you, the Youth Without Shelter community of support, you make amazing happen here each and everyday. This holiday season you’ve embraced the youth who call YWS home through multiple acts of caring and giving from vintage clothing sales, Ugly Sweater Parties, workplace fundraisers, food drives, homestyle meals, classroom activism, concerts to name a few. When no one is expecting them home this holiday season, together we all have. Jenny, past YWS resident shared through #welcomehomeyws (www.welcomehomeyws.ca) “Anytime I needed help I could count on them, they never judged me. They always respected me, knew I had bigger dreams…to me #yws in 3 words: encouraging, helpful, inspiring.” Recently a YWS youth expressed their experience with homelessness in this way: “I honestly didn’t think I would make it. I was in a really bad place. Traumatized and damaged #yws changed my life for the better. I learned not only to care for myself but for my future. Thanks to you.” From our house to yours wishing you a year of new beginnings.

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

As you have probably already noticed, our Welcome Home YWS Campaign is in full swing.  Our tag line has great meaning for me.  “When no one is expecting them home…we are.”  This is truly at the core of our work and it has far greater meaning during the holiday season.  While the holidays bring great joy, for many the holidays bring great sadness borne out of loneliness and despair.

It is common to hear people talk about how the holidays are about family.  This message seems to be ubiquitous this time of year.  I’ll change the narrative and suggest that when we say family it is truly about belonging and being important to someone else.  I have heard from our residents how tough it is over the holidays. But I have also heard about how meaningful the support of YWS is and how much it matters.  YWS is a place for people to belong, to be part of something larger than yourself.  This applies to our residents, our staff team, and the hundreds of volunteers who make amazing happen each day.

The holidays tug on our heart strings and I find myself more deeply thoughtful about how much it means to tell someone how great it is to see them that day.  YWS is home for so many.  It has been home for over 30,000 youth since we began 32 years ago.  That is the population of a small town.  Or a very large family of people who found a place to connect, a place to belong, and a place where someone was always expecting them home.

On a personal note I would like to acknowledge the passing of Dr. Richard (Dick) Meen. He was a friend and significant mentor of mine who helped to guide my thinking and approach to working with young people.  He saw them as capable, strong, and resilient.  He also saw young people as someone to learn from; if you let them. He said something once that has never left my mind.  Dick said, “Zero empathy plus zero compassion equals zero treatment.”  He was so very right. 

Youth Without Shelter makes the Top 100 Charity List with MoneySense

Youth Without Shelter makes the Top 100 Charity List with MoneySense

MoneySense has released its annual Top 100 Charity List to assist donors in making informed decisions during the busy 2019 holiday season.  Youth Without Shelter is one of those charities – and is recognized as the top charity in the youth category.  The ranking is based upon financial transparency (both fundraising and charity) and social results transparency (how donations are being used to create impact, and the sharing of that story).

You can view the complete list and YWS’s ranking by clicking here.  

To discuss how your gift can build a foundation for each youth at YWS to reach their potential, please contact our Development & Engagement Office at 416.748.0110 ext. 26 or communications@yws.on.ca.

The journey of developing a five-year strategic plan

The journey of developing a five-year strategic plan

For many of us, our companies and groups go through a strategic planning process every few years. This plan helps to guide and shape the future of an organization. Strategic plans set out priorities and goals with indicators along the way. Ultimately, any organization has a vision of what they want to look like four or five years down the road. At YWS we have just embarked on the journey of developing a five-year strategic plan.

YWS is no different than any other organization. Where we are going and what we will become are important questions. Like a private sector company, we have to be responsive to our clients. Similarly, we do our best to predict challenges along the way. One of the most important ways that we differ from most private sector companies is that we include advocacy and education as core components of our service. For us, it isn’t about profits; we are focused on providing services for which we do not charge a fee to the user.

The landscape of providing services to those facing homelessness is ever changing. Demographics change, funding requirements change, social impacts change. What does not change for us is a commitment to always being there in a youth’s time of need. How that will look in five years is our focus. We want to be able to deliver even more quality, positively impactful services which not only allow for our youth to find housing, but help youth to not have to face homelessness at all.

AGM Lessons

AGM Lessons

We recently held our Annual General Meeting.  Once again I learned lessons taught by the young people we support, and those who have lived with us in the past.  I learned about hopefulness, determination, the importance of kindness.  But most importantly I was taught a lesson in humility.

I was humbled by the capacity of the human spirit and the ability of those people we support to carry on despite what can seem like insurmountable odds.  But I was also humbled by the common thread that came through from those who shared their stories with us that night.  It is the immense power of kindness and compassion to help to heal a bruised spirit in time of need.  Hope is instilled through caring and it is this hope which helps to allow the tremendous capabilities of these youth to rise and take hold.

As I listened to those stories shared with us, I was struck by the simplicity of what is at the core of our work at YWS.  In my office, I have a framed poster on the wall that was given to me by an agency I worked for previously.  It is my mantra for both the staff and for the people we support. It simply reads; Be nice.  Work hard. There is a relationship intrinsic in these two phrases.  Because sometimes one has to work hard at being nice.  In the end there is a profound effect that these two principles can have on a youth in need of kindness and hope.

YWS’s Annual General Meeting Evening of Appreciation Shines a Spotlight on Issue of Youth Homelessness

YWS’s Annual General Meeting Evening of Appreciation Shines a Spotlight on Issue of Youth Homelessness

On Thursday, September 13 at Youth Without Shelter’s Annual General Meeting/Evening of Appreciation the youth voice was front and centre reinforcing this year’s Impact Report theme of “The Multiple Facets of Youth” who call Youth Without Shelter (YWS) home. From the youth co-host to the remarkable young people who shared their very personal experiences with homelessness to the young performers who wowed us with their vocal and musical talents, the entire evening shone a spotlight on the issue of youth homelessness.

Abi spoke about her experience at YWS and the challenge of being a homeless youth: “Youth who are vulnerable and being tossed around in a world they might not have been taught to walk through. Type of people that have a world of potential but statistically are at a terrible disadvantage.”

Ruth’s speech highlighted her experience as a newcomer to Canada: “The support I received in the SIS Program as a student was overwhelming. Thank you for allowing me to be me, for making me feel accepted, supported and cared for.”

Chris a past Stay in School Program graduate updated us where his journey has taken him: “I was hired with the Toronto Paramedic Service. I contribute to society and feel very rewarded every day I help someone in a critical situation.”

Thank you to our incredible community of supporters for working with us everyday to “end homelessness, one youth at a time, one step at a time.”

To view all of the photos from this special evening please go to our Facebook Page and view the Photo Album:  AGM 2018:  Thursday, September 13, 2018. Photos credit:  Rob Blakely.

Partnering with The Pinball Clemons Foundation

Partnering with The Pinball Clemons Foundation

 

Excited to partner with The Pinball Clemons Foundation on their commitment “to empowering youth through education by taking them from the margins to the mainstream.”

What does this mean for the youth who call YWS home?  Youth through the combination of YWS’s wrap around approach and the commitment of The Pinball Clemons Foundation will lead their own journey, achieving educational goals and laying a foundation for the career they strive for.  Specifically, funds from The Pinball Clemons Foundation will enable YWS to:

  • Launch a Peer to Peer Mentorship Program in the Stay in School Program
  • Expand Life Skills and Culinary Programming
  • Equip the weekly YWS Fitness Boot Camp with essential equipment

Thanks to The Pinball Clemons Foundation we are closer to ending homelessness….one youth at a time, one step at a time.

“My social worker directed me to Youth Without Shelter’s Stay in School Program. I applied to the program and was welcomed in. For the ten months I stayed there, I felt absolutely comfortable and safe; everyone was so kind and welcoming. With them I managed to graduate with honors….With the help of YWS I was able to set money saving goals so I have money. I learned how to prepare quick, cheap and simple meals. I’m now paying my own way and turning into a pretty efficient adult. ” (H., past Stay in School Program resident) 

 

 

 

Back to school: the challenge is to succeed in spite of the odds being against you

Back to school: the challenge is to succeed in spite of the odds being against you

It is that time of year where we all make lists of back to school supplies and lists of tasks we need to complete so that our kids are ready for school. Most of our lists look like this:

  • Backpack
  • Lunch bag
  • Pencil case
  • Pens, pencils, coloured pencils
  • School shoes and clothes
  • Sign all medical and registration forms
  • Register for bus route

Now imagine if your list also included:

  • Figure out how to pay for transit
  • Explain to the school that you don’t have a parent to sign your forms
  • Find someone to pay for activity fees
  • Find a place to live so that you have an address to actually put on the forms
  • Hope nobody spots that your shoes are worn through and your clothes are just as worn out and don’t fit

That is what the list looks like for so many of our youth living on the street or moving around from couch to couch.  Now add the stress that the second list also has attached to it and it certainly isn’t a recipe for success.  The challenge is to succeed in spite of the odds being against you.

33 years ago, YWS was created by a caring and committed group of teachers and guidance counsellors who recognized the need for shelter for so many of the students they worked with.  In one way, our foundations were built on education.  We recognize the same thing those courageous people did, without support and stability the odds are stacked against your opportunity to be successful.  This is why we at YWS work hard every day to provide the environment that can support the success of those persons who have no place to call home.  Everyone deserves to have someone meet them as they come home, who asks how your day was, how school was today, for a safe place to do homework with the basic supplies needed to compete in today’s challenging and tech savvy education system.

As you work with your kids this August getting them ready to go back to school, enjoy every minute of it.  Instill in your children an appreciation for what they have (and not just the material things).  Instill an appreciation for a safe and supportive place to live.  What an outstanding opportunity for you to sit with your kids and visit our website so that you can explore the opportunities that exist to support our residents in their quest to make their lives better.  Show them that we can all make a difference in the lives of others.  Even though our kids may not always listen to us, they most certainly always watch us.  You have the chance to teach the first lesson of this school year.

The ripples we create

The ripples we create

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert Kennedy

Since I was a young boy I have been a fan of Robert Kennedy.  At the time of his death I was too young to truly appreciate his words and the impact that he had on so many young people and his country.  In many ways the impact of his deeds and words is better understood through the lens of time.  Do we romanticize his memory?  Perhaps, but his words have stood the test of time.  They are as true today as they were in the 1960’s.

We live in a time where there seems to be a certain amount of cynicism that surrounds our heroes of the day.  The seemingly inevitable fall from grace is magnified by 24-hour media and the multitude of means by which we can critique and spread opinion, often times without a thought about the truth of what is said.  We rush to judgement without knowing all of the facts.  Once something is said loudly and often enough, it becomes the accepted truth.

Social opinion sadly falls prey to the spin of the rush to judgement. Our need to categorize and then decide who to pin blame upon before moving on to the next issue defies my understanding.  The idea of thoughtfulness as a virtue is almost forgotten.  Instead it has been replaced by extremism, by right and wrong, by left and right.  We seem to have forgotten to employ our conscience and values when forming opinions.

Poverty, homelessness, and social supports are a much discussed topic these days.  With a new provincial government in place there is great speculation on how this will impact the social fabric of Ontario in general and Toronto in particular. Rather than waiting for the government to decide on issues, it is the perfect opportunity for each person to do our own part to make positive social change.  It is time for each of us to create our own ripple.  Make it your goal to be the beginning of the current that will sweep down the walls.