Giving Thanks for GivingTuesday

Giving Thanks for GivingTuesday


GivingTuesday is a global movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Black Friday. It’s a time when charities, companies and individuals join together and rally for different causes.

This year, for the 8th annual GivingTuesday on December 1st, we wanted to switch things up a bit! Rather than highlighting our greatest needs, or opportunities to donate, we wanted to take a moment to give back this year and share stories of some of the amazing volunteers, donors, and supporters who give to YWS.

Here are the 7 stories we featured over our social media with our “GivingTuesday Giving Back countdown”


Day 1:

Beverley Halls and the Christmas Treats Team

Beverley Halls is the leader behind the Christmas Treats Team. Each year this team gathers in the YWS kitchen on Boxing Day to share an incredible meal they have made with the youth saying at YWS.  She has a passion for giving back because she was a “troubled” youth and experienced homelessness herself.

Beverley worked for Toronto City councillor Blake Kinahan when she received a memo about YWS starting up and needing support. Beverley started connecting YWS with different businesses and churches in the area. Even when, for a period of time, she was not directly involved at YWS she always spoke to people in her community about getting involved and giving back.

She began hosting her annual Boxing day meal because she is, in her words, a “Christmasaholic”. Her Christmas season always stars with a soiree.  Her guests in attendance were asked to donate items that she would collect for the youth charities she supported. Many times the menu for the Boxing Day dinner at YWS was determined by what was donated. Each year she likes to take the youth on a flavour filled trip around the world by making Thai, Chinese, Caribbean, and Canadian inspired meals to name a few.

Beverley has been with YWS since the beginning. She has always spread the word about YWS to anyone she could share to.

“I want people to do that little thing- if you can only do a bag of rice or 6 broccoli, consider that. We’re not asking for a lot. If you can do more, then do more but think about that little bit that you can give. If you’re at the store buying banana’s think about buying a few more to donate”

It is a part of her holiday celebration each year that she can work with the Christmas Treats team to continue supporting year after year for the youth we serve.

“This giving back to the youth will come back to us in our society… at YWS we have seen the comeback and the great stories of those enduring hardships. All we want is people with success stories who are stable.  Not everyone can be a doctor and that is not what we expect, (but) we want them all to be stable”

“I applaud the volunteer to the smallest donor. I thank them personally because it’s close to my heart”

Thank you Beverly for all that you’ve done for the youth we serve here at YWS!


Day 2:

Aubrey & Marla Dan Foundation (AMDF)

A message from Aubrey & Marla Dan :

“At the Aubrey & Marla Dan Foundation (AMDF), we are committed to helping select organizations in creative and impactful ways across our three giving pillars: Community, Healthcare, and Education. At present, our priority initiatives are focused on youth mental health and homelessness within Ontario.

We are proud to support the mental health program at YWS. Youth Without Shelter (YWS) offers a safe refuge and wrap-around support programs for youth aged 16 – 24 with lived experience of homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area. The increased need for mental health support is evident even more so due to COVID-19. By hiring a part-time mental clinician, YWS has created an effective and personalized pathway to care.

We believe individuals and communities should be healthy, confident, inspired, successful and educated. We are committed to engaging with organizations dedicated to bringing about positive change. COVID-19 has brought unforeseen challenges to the organizations we support. We remain committed to our goals and values to create a sustainable, long-term impact so that organizations can continue to operate during and after the pandemic.”

Thank you Aubrey & Marla Dan for everything you have done for our youth. We are so grateful to have your support through this pandemic. From all of us here at YWS- Thank you!



Day 3:

Ilona Bil

Ilona was born in Poland, and came to Canada with her family in 1994.  She studied Psychology at York University, and is now working for 911 Interpreters and a Video+ Transcription company.

When asked why she gives to charities, she replied: “I give to charities when I have such possibility because I believe it is essential to support the right causes, and to aid those who need help.  I believe that such involvement is, in fact, our social responsibility.  As well, I myself have received help, and experienced people’s kindness in abundance at times when I most needed it; now I want to, and I try to give back.

The reason I have chosen YWS is that the youth whom the organization serves can truly benefit from the help in getting out and developing their best potential, so that they can enjoy good, fulfilling lives, and, in turn, enrich our society by contributing their talents in various ways.  I see YWS as an organization which truly strives, through the many very well structured programs it offers, to help the young people in their care get on a path to a good, meaningful future.”

Ilona has supported YWS since 2016, and the impact she has had on our youth is immeasurable. Thank you Ilona for all that you do, and continue to do for YWS.


Day 4:

The Ismaili Women’s’ Network 

The Ismaili Women’s Network (IWN) was established two years ago to support women who are over the age of 55. Beginning with 5-10 women, and now having expanded to over 100, the IWN acts as a support group for its members to meet and discuss mental health, family life, and cultural stigmas.

The members of IWN wanted to give back to their community. After first hosting community group meet ups such as yoga and other activities, they wanted to do more. They decided to give back to YWS because it was very close to the West Sector meeting location. The stories of the youth are what drew the IWN to supporting them for the past two years. IWN’s support has translated through dozens of home-cooked monthly meals including samosas.

“Serving the community is in our DNA, we give back to the community and it is stressed by the Aga Khan our spiritual leader; support regardless of race, religion, and cultural background”

Thank you to all members of the IWN who have reached out to support us countless times over the last couple of years. We can’t thank you enough for your kindness and generosity!



Day 5:

Jina Shin

Jina Shin has been a dedicated volunteer at YWS for 4 years.  Her love of piano, learning new things, and cooking have fuelled her passion for volunteering at YWS. Jina has always been involved with volunteer work and wanted to use her musical talents to teach others. Over the years, she has been a dedicated piano volunteer, helping many of our youth by giving them a creative outlet to express themselves and improve their musical skills.

Jina is a management consultant who has also involved her colleagues with item drives for the holiday giving season. With her support, and the support of her colleagues, she has been able to support and empower many youth here at YWS. When she’s not tutoring, she can be found in our kitchen with her friends and family cooking up a storm for our 53 hungry residents.

Thank you Jina for all of your tremendous support! We look forward to having you and your family and friends join us in the YWS kitchen one day after COVID restrictions have eased.






Day 6:

Dr. Sly

A message from Dr. Sly and the team at Health For Life Chiropractic:

“Ten years ago we were looking for a way to give back and make the biggest impact on families close to their Cloverdale Mall office. Being a part of this community since 2002, we were interested in finding the best way to improve the area our practice calls home.

Prior to finding Youth Without Shelter (YWS), our wonderful patients had been raising funds with our seasonal “Gift of Health” program for other local charities but when Dr. Sly found YWS, it seemed like the perfect fit for our family and pediatric based practice.

Partnering with YWS in their back-to-school program provides shelter residents with school supplies and other education necessities. This resonates with our office’s philosophy that an early start is key to lifetime health. On our office wall is the saying “It is easier to grow healthy kids than to fix broken adults.” This principle applies to both the body and the mind.

Paving the way for our youth to be successful in life is an ongoing task and the team at Health For Life Chiropractic is excited to continue giving back to our wonderful Etobicoke community by partnering with YWS now and in the future.”

Thank you Dr. Sly and the Health For Life Chiropractic team for your ongoing support to the youth we serve here at YWS. Because of you, we have been able to assist countless youth throughout their individual journeys to find safe, affordable housing. Thank you!


Day 7:

Muneef Ahmed and Jamiat-ul-Ansar 

Muneef Ahmed is a member of Jamiat-ul-Ansar.  Jamiat-ul-Ansar means “group of helpers”. The leadership of the Mosque is geared towards making this place of worship a community hub and serving the community at large. Jamiat-ul-Ansar began giving back to their community though a meal program called Feed the Poor. Feed the Poor was created by Muneef’s father Sheikh Ahmed and Majid Ali. This program is aimed at providing meals for youth, shelters, and food banks. Giving back to the community and helping those in need is embedded within Islam. Their decision to help YWS was a perfect match.

Jamiat-ul-Ansar provides delicious meals every month for our youth. Their prep begins the week before their delivery date to buy groceries and prepare the meal.  On the morning of, they come together to cook the meal so it is fresh for lunch. Throughout the pandemic they have modified how they prepare meals for YWS but their support has been unwavering. Thank you to everyone who has helped prepare meals for our youth! We are all extremely grateful for your support.


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