Eva’s Initiatives

By on Apr 9, 2022 in Giving, People

Nearly 10,000 youth in Toronto Evasstruggle with housing instability each year. On any given night, about 2,000 of them call the streets home. Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth strives to prevent homelessness while facilitating a brighter future for homeless young people.

Andrea Gunraj serves as the Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications at Eva’s. She bears testimony to the dire situations that drive people out of their homes.

Many misunderstand the catalysts for homelessness. “They assume young people are not following the rules or they’re getting into things that they shouldn’t. It can be a blame approach,” reflects Gunraj.

She continues, “I think one of the things that people often misunderstand is why young people become homeless in the first place. In Toronto, there is a high number of people who experience issues at home like abuse. With 70 percent of young people, they identify that as one of the reasons for leaving home. And it’s not easy to leave by any means when you don’t have money or support. Often, there are really dire situations that push people to leave.”

There is also a misconception that mainly youth from economically disadvantaged families are at high risk of homelessness. About 50 percent of homeless young people come from middle- and upper-income families.

Eva’s provides services for young people and their families to keep the household healthy and intact if possible. Two shelters and a transitional housing facility, plus education and job training services, are available to help them make the transition to independence.

Yardi supports Eva’s Satellite, Eva’s Phoenix, and Eva’s Place. The three facilities are home to 123 homeless youth aged 16-24 every night. Residents receive basic necessities such as food, clothing, and hygiene items. Staff members assess the young persons’ mental, physical, and aspirational wellbeing. Youth then work one-on-one with staff members to develop a personalized action plan to reach short- and long-term goals.

Once goals are established, youth participate in additional support programs. Harm Reduction assists youth struggling with substance abuse. Life Skills prepares youth for day-to-day actives, such as housing selection, household care, and managing finances. The Education and Employment Training Program at Eva’s Phoenix, which Yardi supports, is one of the most in-demand programs.

Gunraj explains, “It’s about supporting youth to get an education, as well as build the skills they need to find jobs. One of the areas Eva’s trains people for is construction and building maintenance. That’s a booming industry in many cities across North America. Getting those types of jobs can be a powerful tool for securing somebody’s future.”

Though there are several resources available to help youth get a fresh start, many young people yearn to repair relationships with their families. The Family Reconnect program facilitates the communication needed to rebuild relationships.

“Through our Family Reconnect program, we find that many young people would love to work out the situation with their family. We recognize that home and family are still important to young people’s wellbeing and their future success. Family Reconnect brings people together in ways that work for everybody. Even if they don’t go back home, they can have healthy relationships with their family.”

In some cases, youth opt not to, or cannot, return home even after taking measures to restore relationships. These young adults continue forward on their journey towards independence.

“We have our Independent Living program,” says Gunraj. “A lot of the time, the kids are leaving in a stressful situation and they’re so young. They don’t have the skills to cook and clean and pay rent on time. [The program] is about giving them the tools that we all need to have housing and keep it. This support can make the difference between someone being back in the system in a year or having a path towards future housing from now on.”

Each case is different. Youth arrive with different skill sets, support systems, and mentalities that can affect their long-term success. Yet Gunraj is consistently filled with hope.

“The main thing that we find is that young people are resilient. They are incredibly motivated to seek a better life and future. That’s the majority of young people who come to Eva’s and work with our programs. They’re so, so motivated. They want to be involved and change the conditions that got them in there in the first place. It’s a positive thing that we’re seeing,” says Gunraj. “In terms of willingness, there is always a great willingness to arrive and have a better life in the future. We build on whatever the young person brings in, and that’s what they often bring.”

To show your support for Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, explore ways that you can get involved and make a donation.