Project: Humanity COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program

Project: Humanity COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program

The COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program: Creating pathways to joy during hard times through 1:1 creative mentorship

“I think this has been a really lonely period for a lot of people and the opportunity to learn something new and to really focus your energy on something is incredibly valuable and I think therapeutic in those kinds of moments.”

Over the past decade, Project: Humanity has been volunteering at Youth Without Shelter to bring free arts education to youth residents. When COVID-19 put our weekly Drama Drop-In program at YWS on pause, Project: Humanity imagined a new way to mitigate the increased isolation youth shelter residents are currently facing, while also creating meaningful work opportunities for artists impacted by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program (CAPP) pairs youth at YWS with artists for weekly 1:1 online mentorship sessions in a discipline of their choosing, such as poetry, guitar, song writing, and visual arts. So far, the program has been a resounding success; CAPP has given six youth at YWS a weekly opportunity to exercise their creativity and learn new skills with the guidance of a professional artist.

While CAPP originated as a response to COVID-19, the program will exist beyond the pandemic as a way for youth and artists to build resilience and connection during a time of ongoing instability. Project: Humanity is fundraising to include up to 24 youth and artists in the program by the end of the year.

To donate, please visit

Malia Rogers
Project: Humanity 

YWS Youth Impact

One youth in the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program is developing her skills in visual arts through daily practice. Together with her mentor, multidisciplinary artist and designer Justin Broadbent, she is “learning skills when it comes to drawing and painting … stuff like landscape, watercolour, and different sketching techniques using pencil crayon and just regular pencil”. Her mentor, Justin, is continually impressed by her dedication to her art and the depth of her knowledge: “I was really stuck on how to describe an abstract process, and I couldn’t come up with the words, and she sort of stopped me and was like, ‘Oh, like a Rothko.’ And I was like, ‘yes, exactly!’ And she nailed it right on the head, that’s what I meant.”

Over the past months, another youth in the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program — through mentorship with acclaimed singer-songwriter Peter Katz — has progressed from holding the guitar for the first time to learning every chord he needs in order to play his favourite songs. In the scope of their sessions together, Peter always makes sure to set aside time for “pure joy” in the form of playing songs the two of them enjoy. In recent sessions, these songs have included “Country Roads” and “Shallow” — Peter shares that “we had a lot of fun, and he was singing his heart out too which was so nice to see”.

“…the youth sometimes feels a bit shy and scared to share their voice, and it sort of reminds me that even as adults, really with all community members there can be moments where even when we have great capacity, if we don’t have someone to encourage us or to put us in the kind of contexts where we can flourish, we have all of these latent kind of gifts that can end up not being shared.”

To the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program artists…

On behalf of all staff and residents at YWS, we’d like to thank the COVID-19 Artist Partnership Program artists who have taken the time to mentor our youth during such a difficult period for all of us. To say that “youth in shelters are feeling increased anxiety as their usual social and support networks become inaccessible” is an understatement. But with the support you’ve shown our youth, they have had such a wonderful opportunity to grow, to heal, and in the words of one of our youth; have had the ability to “take my mind off the chaos”. We are so grateful for your support.

Thank you to Mike T Kerr, Peter Katz, Linda McRae, Justin Broadbent, Khari Wendell – McClelland, Malia Rogers, Daniel Chapman-Smith, and all the new artists joining Project: Humanity as they work to expand this initiative in the coming months.

Thank you!

Cover Me Urban 2019 raised $165,355!

Cover Me Urban 2019 raised $165,355!

On April 10th Cover Me Urban, presented by Hudbay Minerals, came to life through the good vibes of Toronto neighborhoods at The Rec Room.

Together, the sold out Cover Me Urban crowd raised $165,355 for Youth Without Shelter’s Life Skills, Employment, Culinary, Housing and After-Care Programs! Thank you.

Take a peek at these photo and media highlights of this electric evening of urban sights and sounds:

  • Click here to see how SNAPD Downtown Toronto captured the spirit of the night.
  • Click here to view the Global Evening News piece on Cover Me Urban.
  • Click here to listen to how Cover Me Urban Food Station, Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar, make their signature “Mozzarella” on CP24 Weekend Breakfast.
  • View the Cover Me Urban Facebook Album.

See you next April 2020 in the Cover Me Urban neighborhoods.

And the final word belongs to our youth,click here for their words of thanks.


Numbers can be shocking when said out loud

Numbers can be shocking when said out loud

On February 1st I joined hundreds of volunteers canvasing for donations for our Time4Change event. As the day wore on I found myself looking for new things to say to passersby to elicit donations.    It was a very cold day at the end of a very cold week so all of the TTC riders were well aware of how it felt being cold temporarily.  Some riders walked by and smiled saying sorry they didn’t have change.  Others simply walked past without a glance.  I needed to improve my message.  Yonge/Bloor Station is a multi-level station with plenty of traffic.  I have a loud voice. I thought, I can do better.  I decided to simply put some statistics out there.

“Over 2,000 kids have no place to call home tonight! You can help to change that!” 

When I first said it I surprised myself at the emotional reaction I had to my own words.  It obviously had an effect on those within earshot.  Multiple people turned and looked.  Many dug into pockets and purses to grab some change.  My message was a success.  I suddenly worried that I was making the truth a slogan and was diminishing its importance by using it as some sort of pitch.  My internal conversation led to a decision that the truth is important and for those who do not donate perhaps they can gain some education.

Raising funds is fantastic and the event was a big success.  What cannot be measured is the impact that our art installations and message had on the people who we came into contact with.  Every volunteer had at least one story of someone asking them about YWS and/or youth homelessness.  For most it was multiple interactions.  Spreading the message and engaging the amazing people of Toronto is a large part of T4C.

Thank you Toronto for your generosity and your interest.  You showed you care.

(Photo credit: Durham College student.  Steve Doherty, YWS Executive Director on left and T4C volunteer, actor David Reale on right)

Thank you for creating change through Time4Change2019

Thank you for creating change through Time4Change2019

“My life was in shambles. In 4 short months YWS gave me all the help and love I could receive. And to you guys out there today in 32 degree cold, you are out there helping people, and that is what it is all about helping other humans. Thank you.”

(As shared by YWS Youth at T4C 2019 Showcase, Tangerine Downtown Café)

Thank you for creating critical awareness about youth experiencing homelessness in our city through your participation in Time4Change Day 2019, presented by Tangerine.

On a very cold Friday, February 1, close to 600 volunteers raised their voices at 27 canvassing locations calling for change one youth at a time, one step at a time, one donation at a time. Students, schools, service clubs, actors, families, employee groups, artists, countless individuals all came together as a community of support for youth.

 T4C art activism challenged the public to “hear their stories” through spoken word, theatre, music, art, dance and film.  These powerful stories developed under the leadership of T4C Artistic Co-ordinator Naomi Tessler of Branch Out Theatre and many committed professionals including: dance artist Zita Nayardy; spoken word artist Lamoi Simmonds; filmmaker Paul Davis; and multi-disciplinary artist, Yavni Bar-Yam.

Working with Time4Change to break the cycle of youth homelessness are a group of committed sponsors.  Our thanks to:  presenting sponsor and partner, Tangerine; Art & Activism Experiences Sponsor, Mantella Corporation; T4C Friends Sponsor, Hudbay Minerals; T4C’er Sponsor, Canadian Scale Company Limited; Matching Challenge Sponsor, Outliers Mining Solutions; media sponsors Pattison Outdoor, OneStop, Faren Agency and 102.1 The Edge; and T4C Cookie Sponsor, The Bake Sale.

Thank you to the multitude of venues who welcomed Time4Change Day into their spaces:  the TTC, Brookfield Place, Bay-Adelaide Centre, CBC Broadcasting Centre, College Park, Royal Bank Plaza, 10 Dundas East, 25 York Street, Toronto Dominion Centre, Yonge Eglinton Centre and the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area.

Time4Change is very much about the conversations that are the beginning of change to come such as the elderly woman who told a volunteer: “I could have used YWS when I was young” and shared her story; and the questions young students had of the YWS youth speaker at the T4C Showcase.

Together as T4C’ers you raised $88,000 to support essential transit fare costs and wrap around programming at Youth Without Shelter to enable each youth in our care to transition to stable, independent living.  This transit fare will support youth as they strive for their educational goals, search for employment and find a home to call their own.

Time4Change does not end on February 1st, you can still make change throughout February through #time4change2019 by: texting CHANGE to 45678 to donate $10 to Youth Without Shelter. FYI no standard text messaging fees are incurred by mobile users to initiate and complete a text message donation. No portion of any amount donated is held by participating wireless providers. Donations are passed through at 100% back to YWS.

T4C Day photos – visit the Youth Without Shelter Facebook Page:

One youth at a time, one step at a time, thank you.

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:

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 ( “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

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.