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: https://www.facebook.com/ywstoronto/

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: 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)