Covenant House Toronto has launched our first annual Covenant House Month this February to raise awareness and funds to help homeless youth. While an estimated 40,000 young people across the country and 10,000 in Toronto alone have no place to call home at any time during the year, almost 90 percent of Canadians surveyed said they were unaware of the extent of this national epidemic.
The month will shine a light on the often overlooked and misunderstood issue of youth homelessness through awareness and advocacy initiatives, as well as raise much-needed funds for homeless youth.
The myth persists that homeless youth are rebelling against parental authority. But the harsh reality is that most are fleeing or have been forced out of homes where there is abuse and neglect and are at high risk of violence and exploitation.
Along with awareness and advocacy efforts, we are reaching out to donors, supporters, companies and employee groups to help it meet our current $20-million annual operating budget. The month will wrap up with a visit by Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan, who heads our 21-site network spanning from Alaska to Latin America.
Today, we find our homeless youth are more stuck and unable to move forward without extra support. For the past five years we have seen record-high daily numbers of kids staying in our 94-bed emergency shelter.
About 35 percent of these youth suffer from mental health issues, some 40 percent have been involved with child welfare and about 30 percent have been in some form of the sex trade.
The month has been proclaimed by the City of Toronto and recognized by the Ontario government.
We chose February as it is traditionally the coldest winter month and when kids most need a safe refuge. It is also the month we opened our doors in 1982.