125 local charities from across the country are receiving funds from The Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Orange Door Project. One of those companies, Eva’s, we briefly mentioned in an article about Charities Helping Homeless Youth in Toronto. For our latest Charitable Choices post, we followed up with Eva’s to find out more about what they do.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth is an award-winning organization that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing. Eva’s helps youth learn how to live on their own while still being supported and provides programming like hands-on employment and training programs to help youth experiencing homelessness reach their full potential.
We provide strength-based, trauma-informed services for youth experiencing homelessness so that you can leave homelessness behind. Eva’s is the bridge to help vulnerable young people find a safe place to live and a sense of belonging, permanency and affordable housing and connection to community.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Toronto has the largest homeless population in Canada with 2,000 youth experiencing homelessness every night. Not a statistic to be proud of and one that we need to change. The lack of affordable housing, high youth unemployment, high cost of post-secondary education and a disconnect from community – overwhelmingly impacts vulnerable young people particularly racialized youth living in our communities. The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated this crisis while exposing inequalities for homeless youth. Youth living in shelters are experiencing an increase in stress, anxiety and depression during this time.
We know that youth feel isolated, scared and unsafe living alone on the streets. They may have experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as significant family breakdown and often face the constant threat of violence, exploitation, drugs and illness every day on the streets. They are excluded from what most of us take for granted – stable housing, a good job, positive family connections and community integration. Most feel like they have no one to turn to and no way out.
We help youth experiencing homelessness bolster their resiliency, increase their individual strengths, integrate successfully into their communities and transition into healthy stable adulthood.
When did it start it?
Eva’s Initiatives is an award-winning charity and leader in preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness for over 30 years. Eva Smith (founder) was a Jamaican immigrant and Black community leader who worked to address the disparate experiences of Black youth and families in Toronto.
What made you want to get involved/start it?
Eva’s advocacy began when she started to fight to improve the conditions of Black domestic workers. She quickly became a tireless Black community leader who dedicated her life to advocating on behalf of young people – particularly Black youth. Eva advocated for Toronto’s education system to be reflective of the young people it served and worked to address women’s rights, immigration issues and Black community empowerment and representation.
What was the situation like when it started?
Eva’s was founded out of the community advocacy of Eva Smith, a Black community advocate who immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and worked to advocate for better outcomes for Black students in the education system. It was through this work that Eva realized that hidden homelessness was also an issue in the community.
Her passion and advocacy resulted in the construction of our first shelter, Eva’s Place, named in her honour, in 1994, one year after her death. A few years later, Eva’s Satellite, Canada’s only harm reduction shelter for youth, opened to provide specialized supports for youth challenged by addictions and mental health. And after that, Eva’s Phoenix was launched to provide youth transitional housing and the skills they need to find and maintain housing and employment in the long run.
Although Eva Smith passed away in 1993, her spirit has lived on. We continue to fight to end, prevent and reduce youth homelessness.
How has it changed since?
Our unique two-pronged approach of Housing First and the delivery of integrated, interrelated services empowers homeless youth to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to stabilize their lives and build their independence in order to leave the streets permanently.
Every single night, we provide 123 vulnerable young people experiencing homelessness with a safe place to stay, healthy, nutritious food and vital crisis services at Eva’s emergency shelters (Satellite and Place) and its transitional living complex (Phoenix). Last year, we helped 5,000+ youth access vital services such as harm reduction, family counselling, health promotion, education and employment opportunities and housing supports .
Eva’s Satellite is Canada’s first ever harm reduction shelter providing specialized supports for youth with addiction and mental health concerns. Our Employment Training programs have a 70% success rate in helping youth find work or re-enter the school system. Eva’s Family Reconnect Program is the only shelter-based program in Canada that helps homeless youth and their families rebuild more positive relationships. This year Eva’s launched a new centralized and coordinated intakeprocess, the first of its kind in the city of Toronto for a homeless youth shelter.
What more needs to be done?
Providing a path from homelessness to education, employment and inter-dependence is not a short-term task. As youth begin to develop more self-confidence, self-reliance and resiliency, they start exploring new horizons, beyond their current circumstances. Eva’s youth support programs, provided at all of Eva’s homes, help youth develop their own personal action plan towards achieving their goals. The supports are inclusive, integrated and holistic and build upon the intersectionality of each youth’s own unique needs. Many of the young people we serve are racialized youth (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) as well as LGBTQ youth and newcomer youth who self-report to Eva’s staff varying degrees of problematic substance use, mental health issues, and limited/strained family connections.
At Eva’s we help to bolster these young people’s resiliency, individual strengths, self-advocacy and pro-social relationships with peers and families and empower them to find stable, permanent housing, pursue their education and secure meaningful employment.
How can our readers help?
As a result of the COVID-19 virus, youth face further isolation from their community, vital resources, services and supports and access to education and employment opportunities, that are the key drivers to their future plans toward sustainable housing and independence.
Organizations like Eva’s are always in need of financial support so they can continue providing life-changing services to vulnerable young people.
To learn how you can support youth experiencing homelessness please visit:
Additionally, as more services are being provided virtually, we are always in need of guest experts to deliver programming in areas like financial literacy, health and wellness, recreation, creative arts and more.
Where can we follow you?
@evasinitatives on Instagram, Eva’s on Facebook and Linkedin.
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome Toronto charity that you love?
Delta Family Services