United Way Greater Toronto's highlighted the need of York Region's homeless youth at its annual general meeting on Thursday.
360 Kids is a United Way funded agency that provides housing and other services to vulnerable youth in York Region. In a video presentation at the AGM, 360 Kids CEO Clovis Grant spoke about the situation.
“I think it’s really important for people to understand that for these young people it is not a choice to be on the streets,” he said.
For some kids who leave home, it is due to abuse they experienced from a very young age, or in other cases, it is because they are not accepted by their families.
Grant said that 25 to 40 per cent of the youth they see at 360 kids are part of the LGBTQ+ community and ended up on the streets after coming out to their families.
There are a number of services available to homeless youth through the agency. These include employment training, counselling, and housing services.
The video was filmed at a property 360 Kids recently purchased with funding from the Government of Canada's Reaching Home Program which provides transitional housing for kids.
The organization also helps youth finish their education through the iGrad program. In partnership with the York Region District School Board there is a classroom set up at the agency's youth hub in Richmond Hill.
"A lot of people think ‘they're homeless, they’re not interested in education.’ It's so far from the truth,” Grant said.
More than 60 youth have graduated through this program, he said, meaning they are able to go to other opportunities and "break that cycle.”
However, out of all the services they offer, Grant said "one of the most important things we have to provide is hope."
Daniele Zanotti, president and CEO of United Way Greater Toronto, said it is "so sad and tragic to see that in region as affluent as ours the needs of youth remain so pronounced and only exasperated as we can imagine over the next years."
He led the AGM and spoke with representatives from other partner organizations. This included Lisa Williams, senior vice-president of strategy at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. She spoke about the housing crisis and the importance of working with non-profit organizations like United Way to tackle it.
There was also a conversation with Angela Robertson of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre and Mercedes Sharpe Zayas of Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, who spoke about the unique needs of the community in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto.
Another video featured Sharon Floyd, CEO of Embrave Agency to End Violence. The organization provides support and services to survivors of gender-based violence in Peel Region.
United Way Greater Toronto's annual report for 2021-2022 will be published this week, outlining more statistics and highlights of the organization's work.