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How to Help Youth Facing Homelessness in the GTA

Written by Julie Vo. Edited by Sara McQuaid and Tvisha Shah.

Welcome back and thank you for joining us on the CCP blog! Today, we’d like to bring awareness about the issue of youth homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). 

Amidst Toronto’s towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, there exists a shadowy reality that often goes unnoticed by many: youth homelessness. As Canada's population increases, so does the crisis of homelessness, with a staggering 1 in 5 shelter users across the nation being youth. However, the situation is particularly dire in Ontario, where more than a third of youth facing homelessness find themselves without a stable roof over their heads.

Over the past three months, over 10,800 people were actively facing homelessness. On any given night, an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 youth wander the streets of Toronto, with their only refuge being the cold concrete sidewalks. Despite the efforts of the city's emergency shelter system, which accommodates approximately 9,000 people nightly, youth shelters in Toronto find themselves bursting at the seams, with occupancy rates reaching a staggering 97%.

It's time to shine a light on this pressing issue. But how can the City take action? 

  • Increase Funding for Youth Shelters: These shelters serve as a lifeline for many young people, providing them with not only a warm bed but also access to vital resources such as food, clothing, and healthcare. The City has shelter diversion programs for low-income households at risk of homelessness. These emergency shelter services offer immediate re-housing support and stabilization assistance. By increasing financial support, we can ensure that these shelters have the resources they need to accommodate all those in need.

  • Expand Housing Options: While shelters offer temporary relief, the ultimate goal should be to provide stable housing. This can be achieved through initiatives such as subsidized housing programs, transitional housing, and support for independent living arrangements. Using a Housing First approach, the City has built a Shelter, Support and Housing Administration’s (SSHA) second service plan to strengthen the homelessness service delivery system and assist people to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible.

  • Invest in Mental Health and Support Services: Many youth experiencing homelessness grapple with underlying issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, or trauma. In partnership with the Multidisciplinary Outreach Team (M-Dot) and Street to Homes, the City helps to provide mental health and other services to people who are sleeping outdoors and experiencing homelessness across the city. It's essential that we invest in mental health services tailored to the unique needs of this population, providing them with the support and resources necessary to address these challenges and rebuild their lives.

  • Education and Employment Opportunities: Breaking the cycle of homelessness often requires access to education and employment opportunities. By partnering with local businesses and educational institutions, we can create pathways for youth facing homelessness to gain valuable skills and experiences, empowering them to secure stable employment and achieve economic independence.

  • Community Outreach and Prevention: Finally, we must focus on proactive measures to prevent youth homelessness in the first place. The Toronto Centre of Excellence (TCE) at York University has conducted and mobilized homelessness research from across Canada and beyond. The centre is continuously adapting Canadian and international innovation, leadership, knowledge on the prevention of youth homelessness and sustainable housing. There are many more initiatives that exist, such as family mediation services, youth outreach programs, and public awareness campaigns aimed at destigmatizing homelessness and providing early intervention for at-risk youth.

Here are a list of organizations that we at CCP, are proud to work alongside to help support youth experiencing homelessness in the GTA: 

By coming together as a community and advocating for change, we can ensure that every young person has a safe place to call home. The Canadian Courage Project also has a variety of initiatives that aim to support youth with animal companions transitioning out of shelters and into independent housing. This includes wellness departure kits with essential items and pet supplies and community pantries to help fill a resource gap within the community. 

Thank you so much for joining us on the Canadian Courage Project blog! Stay tuned for future updates and please remember to sign up for our mailing list for future change-making opportunities. 

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