Thank You

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who attended our first ever virtual Annual General Meeting on September 23rd. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our youth while welcoming new members to our Board of Directors.

A full video recording of the AGM is now available here to those who were not able to join us.

During this years AGM, although we were unable to come together in person, we heard from 2 of our youth, learnt more about our YWS programs and procedures during COVID-19, and finished off the night with a music video created by a past resident, dedicated to YWS and the Stay in School program.

We look forward to our 2020/21 fiscal year and know that with the continued support from our volunteers and donors that together, we will get through this. Each and every day we are faced with new challenges, but with a dedicated staff and Board team, we are committed to the youth we serve, and will continue to “strive for greatness” and do all that we can to help end youth homelessness, one youth at a time.

A message from our Director of Operations, Ben Omoregie, shared at the meeting:

Good evening everyone, my name is Ben Omoregie and I am the Director of Operations at YWS.

As we all know, the beginning of 2020 came with many uncertainties and challenges. In the shelter system, there was a need to get ahead of the pandemic and create a safe space for the most vulnerable population. The City of Toronto Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA), in collaboration with Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Inner City Health, Associates (ICHA), provided daily directives to all shelter providers to help prevent the spread of COVID -19 in shelters.

The City of Toronto placed preventative measures to track and address community spread through the various cluster groups. Youth Without shelter was part of the North Etobicoke Cluster group. 

In March 2020, the YWS management team led by Steve Doherty met to implement a pandemic plan that would keep our shelter open as an essential service and address the health and safety of residents and Staff.  

We had non-front line staff working remotely from home to reduce the number of people within the facility at any given time. We stopped accepting new admissions, and we shut our doors to volunteers, including on-site counseling support. We continue to refer our youth to meet remotely with counselors to address their mental health and wellbeing. We stopped approving late nights, overnight, and weekend passes to mitigate the risk to our residents.

The biggest challenge came with the closure of schools and daycare centers, as staff with young children had to stay home to take care of their families. As a shelter that requires 24 -hours staffing and support, it became evident to our entire team that we may have to wear different hats to address the pandemic – we were determined to keep providing a safe, stable, healthy environment for the residents that we serve. So, despite knowing the risk of exposure, many of our dedicated staff worked multiple shifts in order to ensure we could continue meeting the needs of our youth, and we implemented vital Public health protocols in order to reassure everyone – staff, youth, and supporters – that safety is paramount at our shelter.

In April 2020, we received further communication from the City of Toronto due to changes in the number of daily infections and the increased cases in long term care facilities.   

  • YWS received directives from SSHA to reduce current bed capacity (53) by (20) to promote physical distancing within the shelter
  • YWS worked closely with the City of Toronto to access housing initiatives for youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the support of our Housing and After-care team, we were able to secure housing for 20 clients to meet the capacity requirements
  • We eliminated the triple rooms and bunk beds. Bed spacing was 6 feet apart, with every youth assigned to single and double rooms.
  • The City of Toronto site Inspectors visited our site to ascertain if the facility. E.g., Bed spacing and office space met the physical distancing requirement. YWS complied.
  • Inner City Health Associates and Toronto public health through their “ Care Project’ conducted a Risk Stratification report of the shelter and the residents. The Report showed that YWS is a low-risk shelter, and we are already doing a great job of implementing recommended contact precautions.  
  • We continue to enforce hand washing and Social/physical distancing measures upon entry into the shelter.  
  • We received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the City of Toronto, Community Cluster groups, Corporate partners, and donors. We currently have a stockpile of PPE for Staff.

In all of this, the YWS family worked together as a unit to put safety first in everything we do. We continue to maintain a “one fight, one-team approach during this pandemic. It has been a long road, to say the least, for Staff and residents. However, there has been light at the end of the tunnel as we have so far not had an outbreak of Covid-19 in our shelter since the pandemic began We all need to continue to follow Public health guidelines and adhere strictly to the existing safety protocols that we have put in place. We are all in this together.


YWS 2019/2020 Annual Report is now available! Please click the image below for your digital copy.


YWS Volunteer Appreciation Hour

YWS Volunteer Appreciation Hour

Thank you to those who joined us live on April 24 to celebrate our amazing volunteers during National Volunteer Week!

Over the years, YWS has opened our doors to hundreds of volunteers. Corporate groups, family groups, faith organizations and individuals. These volunteers have helped us in so many ways. They have helped us maintain our gardens, creating a beautiful, safe area for our youth to relax and unwind, they have helped our youth with 1-on-1 tutoring sessions, they have joined us in our YWS kitchen to prepare countless meals and snacks, and have even rolled up their sleeves and helped us paint bedrooms for our residents.

These volunteers have joined us from across the GTA, from all walks of life, and all have one thing in common- they want to help put an end to youth homelessness.

It’s because of these dedicated volunteers that we have been able to assist over 1,000 youth each year in their efforts to reach their individual potentials, and find safe and affordable housing.

If you missed the live event, you can view a recording of our celebration below, as well as view all written testimonials that were sampled during the event.

Thank you again for everyone who joined in!

We look forward to having you back to YWS to support our youth.


Written Testimonials

Lynn Campbell 

As a stay-at-home mother of three I have always gravitated to volunteer activities involving children. Many busy years were spent organizing and running school events and fundraisers. As my children became teenagers my interest turned to helping other youth who did not have a support system in place to help them grow and flourish.

I love the fact that Youth Without Shelter is a local, grassroots organization where community involvement from many individuals like myself has a real impact.

When I talk about the Shelter to my network of friends and family I highlight three things that I think make YWS stand out in the charitable sector: the incredible dedication of the staff, the Stay In School program and the excellent financial management.

The staff has created an amazing atmosphere of caring and trust. They invite about 1000 youth a year to call YWS “home” for whatever time they need support. Many of the staff members have worked at the shelter 15-20 years, which is a testament to their dedication.

The Stay In School program allows youth 16-24 to live there permanently while they are continuing their education. Many of these youth go on to specialize in caring professions, ready to “give back” to others in need. Their stories of resilience and success are inspiring!

YWS has been recognized this year by Macleans Magazine for their excellent financial management and transparency. Bottom line: costs are kept low so that most of the donation dollars go to the youth.

I am proud to be a part of the large community of volunteers that has helped make YWS a home and sanctuary for so many youth over the past 34 years.



Tracy O’Neil – Qualcomm Human Resources

I was introduced to Youth Without Shelter nearly 10 years ago through corporate giving initiatives. It was one of our first employee volunteer events, and made such an impression that we have been coming back year over year to help with projects inside and out – assembling intake kits, sorting clothing and donations, gardening and yard work, painting, painting and more painting! I recall apologizing after one particularly messy paint job at the hands of our university interns and YWS staff just laughed and reminded me it will need a new coat of paint in just a couple months anyway. I guess no one cares much about the drips! Every time we are welcomed by caring staff and invited to share in the experience of youth living at YWS. What an incredible opportunity to take team building to a new and meaningful level – we are never short of employee volunteers when YWS comes knocking.



Sandreen Porter – SUSA

  1. What is your philanthropic story?

I have two parts to this question; personally, I want to shed light and bring awareness to youth homelessness, especially youths within Toronto. When one has lived an experience, they understand its pain. In addition, I cannot take all the credit, as I have an amazing team behind me, the SUSA (Sociology Undergraduate Student Association) Executives. We are youths and young adults ourselves who are also faced with our own challenges. As students, we want to feel we are making a positive contribution to our community.

  1. What do you tell others about YWS?

On a daily basis YWS provides for the needs and welfare of youths experiencing homelessness. This is indeed a tremendous duty on their part. They are a beacon of hope not just for youths within and around Toronto but for youths all over the globe that have come and find comfort and place to call home at the resident.

  1. How did you come to choose YWS as a charity to support?

Dated back in 2018 when I held the position of the Outreach Director for the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association, my first project was wanting to do something meaningful and give back to my community; as so many has been ignored and the projection of the media only allows outsiders to see black and white, but not the grey between. I want others to see beyond the statistic of youth homelessness and understand their stories, and their need for change.

  1. What is it about Youth Without Shelter that drew you to become involved as a volunteer?

Their stories were once my story. The staff’s passion and endurance to help youths and positively enhancing their community. A community function like a mechanism, it will scramble when divided, and stand strong when united. Their drive for change is what drew me to help. This is my community, and I want to be apart of something greater than I am, I want to be apart of change, apart of hope, and part of the future and wellbeing of youths.

  1. If you were to describe YWS in one word, what would it be?


  1. What is your goal as a volunteer? What do you want, or want to help YWS to achieve?

My goal is to continue giving back to those in need. I would love for youth’s homelessness to come to an end, and I see that YWS is fighting this fight each and every day, giving youths a sense of hope that tomorrow is brighter than today. Indeed, they are passionate about what they do as a community and that’s what make them winners in this fight. I want YWS to continue doing what they do best, as so many youths rely on them.



Yaldar Schwartz – John D. Parker Junior School

Hello my friends at YWCA,

My name is Yaldar Schwartz and I am an elementary teacher at John D. Parker Junior School. For the past 19 years I have supported YWS through various initiatives such as seasonal food drives, clothing drives and reusable water bottle initiative at the school level. I have creative developmental curriculum connection with the elementary students, their parents and community to support global citizenship and local community. My daughter Evelyn has also extended her passion for community and environment by starting an ongoing reusable water bottle initiative to support all homeless youth in the city to access water. Her reusable water project has reached many homeless individuals so that they can access water.

Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to share. YWS has also helped me in my life to be a more kind, patient and compassionate person. 



Sarah Sam – C3 Church
Youth Without Shelter is an incredible organization. As C3 Toronto, we love coming to YWS to volunteer. Every time we have prepared a meal, it’s been so great to interact with the youth. I love how the team at YWS is always up for a new idea – we tried a movie night at YWS and it was so much fun for everyone involved. Love that the team is open to giving us new ways we can serve youth in our city. Thank you for everything the team does to support youth in Toronto!

Thank you for all you do!



Muneef Jamiat-ul-Ansar

We are honoured to be a small part of the YWS family and admire the great work you do in your mission, “To empower youth facing homelessness to reach individual potential”.
The future of our country is on the shoulders of our youth. When the late Mr. Sheikh Ahmad and Mr. Majeed Alli commenced this healthy meals program, the primary focus was to provide hot, delicious meals to the youth as well as food banks and shelters on a regular basis.
YWS has been a strong partner for us and more importantly a pillar in our community. We are delighted that you have allowed us to work with you and build upon this program to serve the community. Our program has been fortunate to have a team of incredible volunteers, financial support of the congregation of Jamiat-ul-Ansar (Great Lakes Mosque-Brampton) and Mosque Management under the leadership of the Mosque Imam Zahir Bacchus.
Together let us “end homelessness, one youth as a time, one step at a time” especially now, more than ever, in this new and changing world of unprecedented times. WE appreciate you granting us this rewarding opportunity in the service of humanity.



Rayshell – Past YWS Resident

As a volunteer at YWS, I find great pleasure and fulfilment in taking part in impacting lives and giving back. I used to live at YWS, I must truly say I would not have been where I am today without their help. I was able to complete my diploma in nursing and even after I left YWS I am still receiving support in housing and food. Thus, there would be no other way to spend my spare time, then to give back to a community that made me who I am today.

‘A home for the holidays’ Breakfast 2016

‘A home for the holidays’ Breakfast 2016

Thank you for putting the good in good morning as we had breakfast together on Wednesday, November 16th. Through the energy of the YWS Price is Right game players and the Lakeview Lodge #272 IO.O.F challenge donation a selection of essential food and household items have been funded for the 53 youth residing at YWS.  Were you surprised to learn that to nourish 53 youth for one week, YWS spends $240 on milk; $84 on juice; and $168 on cereal?  To see how you can share the warmth this holiday season at YWS click here for our priority wish list.

To the chefs of breakfast sponsor, Woodbine Entertainment Group we all appreciated such a delicious and energizing start to the morning.  Thank you to the “A home for the holidays” breakfast sponsors, our one of a kind emcee and friend Ennis Esmer, and the Mentor College student volunteers for working with us to create awareness of the challenges youth face with homelessness in our community today.

For the morning’s photo highlights from Social Image click here.

‘I first walked up the ramp to the front doors of YWS 20 years ago.  I was 16 years old, scared, and full of anger.  I never felt so alone.  I buzzed the front door intercom fearing the unknown.  I heard the kindest most calming voice say:  “Welcome to YWS! How may we help you?” I will never forget those words. That day was the beginning to the rest of my life.” (Sean, past YWS Resident)

A new YWS film with a focus on “Where are they now.”




You are invited to put the good in “Good Morning”

You are invited to put the good in “Good Morning”

You are invited to put the good in “Good Morning” at the fourth annual “A home for the holidays” breakfast on Wednesday, November 16, 2016. Get together with Youth Without Shelter (YWS) for an energizing morning of breakfast, fun and inspiration from 7:30 am to 9:00 am at the Cineplex Queensway Theatre in Etobicoke

NEW this year…premiere of an YWS video with the theme of “Where are they now?” The longer youth remain homeless the worse their health and life chances become. 39 is the average life expectancy of someone experiencing homelessness in Canada today. Too young. 

And that’s not all that is NEW…we are mixing up the Snow Globe Challenge!  Host actor and comedian Ennis Esmer will challenge you to YWS’s Price Is Right testing your “budgeting” knowledge as it relates to the realities of youth homelessness.  In true Price is Right style, wear your company, school or group colours (such as T-shirts/sweatshirts, hats, scarves, etc.)!

Tickets on sale now for $20. Bring a friend or colleague to share the warmth of the most important meal of the year. See you bright and early by the breakfast table on Wednesday, November 16, 2016!

Thank you for experiencing sights, sounds, flavors of Cover Me Urban

Thank you for experiencing sights, sounds, flavors of Cover Me Urban

On Wednesday, April 6th Toronto’s neighborhoods sprung to life through Cover Me Urban 2016 at The Glass Factory. Thank you for experiencing the sights, sounds and delicious flavors of Cover Me Urban and for giving back to the over 1,000 youth who will seek refuge this year at Youth Without Shelter.

Through your Cover Me Urban experience an incredible $100,063.00 was raised under one roof. Thank you for making this investment in Youth Without Shelter’s six empowering support programs:

“I am the impact of donations to the shelter. What I have achieved would not have been possible without all those who support YWS.” (Former YWS youth resident now a public health nurse)

Cover Me Urban’s culture of neighborhoods was made possible through the support of our extraordinary sponsors. See them all by clicking here. Special thanks to:

Ultra Urban Lounge Presenting Sponsor: Tangerine
Taste of the City General Admission Presenting Sponsor: UPS Canada

The sensational flavors of Cover Me Urban were offered to you through the generosity of:

Aura by Cashew & Clive
Brar’s Food Culture of India
Cheese Boutique
Coastline Catering
Crepe Delicious
Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport Hotel
Executive Caterers of Barrie
Fonda Lola Mexican Bistro
Medium Rare
More Than Pies
Thistletown CI Culinary Program
Yorkshire Pudding

Cover Me Urban Drink Sponsors: Brickworks Ciderhouse, Mill Street Brewery, Oyster Bay Wines.

The Cover Me Urban runway show that dazzled you was a curated urban collection from Saks Fifth Avenue (CF Sherway Gardens), with a host of behind-the-scenes creative support.

And to TSN’s Cabral “Cabbie” Richards, thank you for being our Cover Me Urban neighborhood guide – you looked great in the Cover Me Urban youth photo T!

Cover Me Urban photo snaps are here – can you find yourself? Did you stop by the photobooth? Check out the pics here.

Meet you next April 2017 in the neighborhoods of Cover Me Urban!

“You are our future.” (Note left on Cover Me Urban Lock Wall)