This impressive figure surpasses the organization’s goal of $110,000 and brings the total dollars raised to date to over $1,000,000.
Held in February, the month-long fundraising and art activism campaign raises awareness and funds for the 2000 or so youth who experience homelessness in Toronto on any given night. YWS is the singular emergency residence and referral agency in Etobicoke, serving and supporting homeless youth ages 16 to 24 for three decades.
Youth Without Shelter
This year, YWS combined the experience of their first virtual Time4Change event in 2021 with the classic Time4Change model that saw hundreds of students and volunteers take over Toronto’s TTC stations and high-traffic urban areas to bring a month-long fundraising campaign and virtual Art Activism Showcase and Gallery to raise important awareness and dollars.
“I have long been inspired by the event because it is so inspired by youth, and the idea of youth supporting youth is an amazing venture,” says Steve Doherty, Executive Director, Youth Without Shelter. “Each year, we build awareness and more and more advocates help us to eliminate youth homelessness.”
From February 1 to February 28, supporters were encouraged to donate online through the peer-to-peer fundraising page on Canada Helps, and to visit the Time4Change site to experience the art-filled showcase. The Art Activism and Gallery featured artwork and art activism performances from youth, school groups, and independent artists within the community that shed light on the impossible-to-ignore realities of youth homelessness.
“This year, we saw a much higher interest from youth and artists within our community to participate in the Art Activism Showcase and Gallery, which was absolutely fantastic,” says Brittany Bateman, Communications & Marketing Manager, Youth Without Shelter. “Each year, our goal is to raise not only funds, but awareness, to help us break down homeless stereotypes and spark change within our community. With the help of these artists, we are able to do so in such a special way.”
With approximately 40,000 Canadian youth experiencing homelessness, young people are often the forgotten demographic when talking about Canada’s relentless homelessness crisis. But youth between the ages of 13 and 24 make up a staggering 20 per cent of Canada’s homeless population and face barriers to income support, education, paid employment and rental accommodation simply due to their age, making it extremely challenging to find safe and affordable housing on their own.
In addition to safety, shelter, and food, funds raised will help ensure each youth in YWS’s care receives a safe space to call home during the pandemic with a team of staff providing vital emotional support and mental health counselling that youth need in order to continue going to school, work, and moving toward stable living to be able to reach their individual potential.
As one testament to the important change facilitated by YWS, a number of their own youth took part in the art activism this year. “Four paintings in the virtual gallery were from YWS residents who wanted to express what life has been like for them during the pandemic,” says Bateman.
Life circumstances have not been kind to the youth in these programs — they are victims of abuse, abandonment or have no family at all. For many, the seemingly never-ending pandemic only compounded these issues. YWS not only provides safety and security for youth, but has evolved to provide a wrap-around model of support for more than 1,000 youth annually including counselling, effective life skills programs, employment guidance, placement in affordable housing, and support for continued education.
YWS was recognized on the Top 100 Charities in Canada 2020 List by both Maclean’s and MoneySense, ranking #1 in the Youth Category for financial and social results transparency.