Yonge Street Mission is a Toronto-based non-profit. Their goal is to break the cycle of entrenched poverty that is keeping people from meeting their potential. They offer holistic programs and pathways to assist those living in poverty. We spoke with Angela Solomos, Vice President of Yonge Street Mission to learn more.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
At Yonge Street Mission (YSM), we recognize each and every one of the 500,000 people experiencing poverty in Toronto has immense value. As a local development agency, all our resources and energy are focused on responding to immediate needs, while also helping community members move from surviving to thriving. We believe if we combine our collective resources and wisdom, together we can achieve our vision of ending chronic poverty in Toronto in a generation.
What problem does it aim to solve?
At Yonge Street Mission we are working to end chronic poverty in Toronto in a generation. To do this, we offer holistic programs and a pathway to transform the lives of people living with poverty in Toronto. Our goal is to break the cycle of entrenched poverty that is keeping people from meeting their potential.
When did you start/join it?
I started at YSM in June 2016
What made you want to get involved?
I learned of YSM’s goal to end chronic poverty and was intrigued. At first, I believed the goal to be too big, and too audacious. But after meeting the president and CEO, Angie Peters for coffee one afternoon, I was completely drawn in. Angie said one thing to me that convinced me that I wanted to join this movement. She said “What other goal is there than to work toward the end of chronic poverty? Should we just work to make life a little bit better for someone today, only to welcome them back into the mission tomorrow? No, the only goal we should be striving for, is to end their experience of poverty. If we do our work right, we can achieve it”.
What was the situation like when you started?
The plan was just beginning when I arrived. YSM’s theory of change was in its infancy, our staff was just beginning to implement the program and service changes that would lead to the outcomes we were seeking for our community. We had just launched a measurement and evaluation tool that would ensure the work we were doing was in fact meeting our goals and aspirations. We were at the starting line of a very big and ambitious goal. It was a season of intense change which came with equal parts hope and apprehension.
How has it changed since?
We are seven years in and going strong! We have countless stories of people whose lives have been positively transformed. We have also learned a lot. Our measurement and evaluation tool has allowed us to see what is working well, what needs adjusting and how to best invest our time and resources. For example, our data has shown us that investing in certain parts of a person’s life – things such as system navigation – effectively improves one’s sense of power and self-esteem. We have learned that once that occurs, other parts of a community member’s life improve in turn. They achieve their goals faster and feel a stronger sense of power and a healthier worldview. This is what we now affectionately call our “secret sauce”.
What more needs to be done?
We need to keep going! We also need to partner with others. Ending chronic poverty is not something YSM is doing alone. We partner with others – agencies, government, neighbourhoods and people like you and me – who share in our belief and desire to end the cycle of poverty in Toronto. Everyone has a role to play! What special skill or experience do you have that might help a community member in need? Could you become a tutor to a young student, a mentor to a new Canadian or help someone seeking employment with their resume? Even a small action today can have a ripple effect on generations that follow. What do you have to give?
How can our readers help?
YSM can help you figure out how you can be part of the solution. There are so many ways to get involved! You may choose to become a monthly donor to help fund our work. You can donate your gently used clothing to our thrift store. You can follow us on social media. You can bring your team of colleagues to YSM for a fun team-building day where you can see our work in action. Call our volunteer resources department today to see how your unique skills or experience can help a community member in need. The first step is to call us. We can help you from there!
Do you have any events coming up?
Another way you can help this upcoming season is to support our Christmas Toy Market for Regent Park children. You can donate a new, unwrapped toy to the Market to make the holiday season bright for children in our community this year. You can find out more on our website.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I really love the work of Habitat for Humanity. They are brilliantly aligned with YSM as we both provide a hand-up to people and families to break the cycle of poverty. The folks that Habitat helps are at the end of their poverty journey, ready to make the big step toward home ownership. Their model is one that empowers people and truly catapults their lives toward economic independence. YSM works to get them ready and Habitat takes them the rest of the way! I love that!