In any given night in Canada, there are roughly 6000 youth are homeless, and about 40,000 in the course of a year whom resort to couchsurfing, and sleeping on the streets. Facing a constellation of problems and obstacles at such a young age, some as young as 13, means less focus on the future and more focus on survival at the moment. Without homes, it means no jobs, no school, and possibly no enjoyable future. Frequently dealing with a miasma of problems from family dysfunction, mental health issues, drugs and alcohol addictions, violence and sexual exploitation, some kids choose to live on the streets while others do not. In any case, it has become a national crisis.
While there are over 30 youth shelters in Toronto, most do not offer long term counselling, tutoring, rehabilitation or dog shelters. YouthLink is pioneering in this space with a new shelter being built. Scheduled to open in March 2019, this co-ed facility is to house 10 emergency and 41 long-term beds, including rooms for couples. This transition home is housed in a single storey building, currently being renovated at 747 Warden Avenue, north of St Clair Avenue East and is geared towards people 16 years to 24 years old.
As Scarborough’s only youth homeless emergency shelter, it is unique in more ways than one. For example, it will be Toronto’s only young people’s shelter with a dog kennel, with space for at least six dogs, and with the option of the dogs sleeping in the same room as the person.
Why should there be more youth shelters with dog kennels housed inside you ask? It’s easy! Many street youths have no other reliable and trustworthy companion, other than their dogs. Having a canine friend means feeling safer, and having less anxiety. Dogs can help lower anxiety issues within people, and feeling a sense of commitment and care towards another. Many youths will not leave their dogs outside, of shelters that don’t allow for animals inside, means young people are often sleeping in very cold Canadian temperatures, on dirty mattresses, and sleeping bags, in susceptible and dangerous conditions in order to be with their protective furry friends.
Where most shelters ask people to leave in the mornings, this shelter is focusing on a revolving door mandate. With design implementation geared towards helping the youth succeed, the integration of private rooms, quality facilities, lounge spaces, a state of the art computer room, great food, continual counselling from qualified counsellors, and hopefully with more money raised they will be able to offer feminine hygiene products, a veterinary clinic, and dog food.
With roughly 1000 young homeless people in Scarborough, a facility like this is desperately needed.
The shelter will contain a debugging room, where belongings will be sprayed, and showers and a laundry room will be offered, as well as a library, 3 kitchens and a no drug policy.
Overall, renovations are being paid for by the city are costing about $1.5 million, while the kennel itself costs $50,000. YouthLink’s head of fundraising Evan Back has raised about $30,000 for the kennel but has fallen $20,000 short. Back has launched a GoFundMe campaign page to raise the money for the kennel.
With aided funding, this shelter can get all the state of the art facilities the youth need to succeed, including a kennel for their best friends. Giving to an organization that helps animals survive and thrive means also giving to people attached to those animals a helping hand in feeling safe, and protected.