Studies show that 25%, up to 40% of the homeless youth in Toronto, are LGBTQ. Either way, it’s no exaggeration to say that the LGBTQ society is an at-risk community. One of the studies goes on to say that the LGBTQ youth most often feel alienated at their most crucial developmental period: this is extremely detrimental to their psychological growth.
The SOY (Support Our Youth) program from Sherbourne Health Centre addresses the needs of LGBTQ youth by creating opportunities to build resilience, all while nurturing the sense of identity and belonging that LGBTQ youth are often deprived of. This is an especially important service, considering a study in 2011 by the NTDS stating that 41% of transgender and gender-nonconforming people had attempted suicide versus the national average being 4.6%.
To help nurture this sense of identity, SOY offers a variety of workshops and initiatives to help the variety of intersections that affect the LGBTQ community. This includes workshops for black, multi-racial, and African/Caribbean youth, Trans, transgender and gender questioning youth, homeless and vulnerably housed youth, and then a variety of outdoor and creative arts-based activities.
Additionally, SOY offer one-on-one mentoring, counselling, information regarding health and legal support, and the ability to connect youths with out, safe, LGBTQ role models. This allows them to receive counselling for various family, friends, workplace or school issues they may be facing.
Of the 250 youths that attend SOY groups each week, it is estimated that 40% are homeless, and another 50% are at risk of homelessness. Every Monday, SOY offers a Drop-In service so that homeless LGBTQ youth may access a warm dinner and the comfort of an accepting and caring community.
Every Tuesday, 25-30 youth join the SOY Express group. They are then connected directly to knowledgeable staff. 90% of the youth at Express are estimated to be refugees. These youth “require a program that can meet their diverse needs; one that is dynamic, responsive, and inclusive,” according to the Sherbourne Health Centre.
Click – SOY Mentoring program offers youths a safe, out adult mentor who can speak on their experiences in the community allowing youths to pose questions about identity, sexuality, and community, all while providing support on a series of issues that may impact their lives, like family, friends, school, work and many other areas.
SOY H.E.A.T is a collective of SOY youths that have trained to become ambassadors, so that they may speak on their experiences and the experiences of their fellow LGBTQ youth. Youths take part in anti-oppression trainings so that they may learn about how gender, race, disability, indigenous issues, and mental health all impact the LGBTQ community, so to best speak on the behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves. When these youth are put in positions of power, they are able to give insight and guidance on how to create safe, anti-oppressive, and welcoming environments of people of all genders, sexual orientations, races, etc.
There a variety of other important programs run by the Sherbourne Health Centre’s SOY program, so check them out here:
To get involved with Sherbourne Health Centre and the SOY program, click here: