For 22-year-old Mary, who recently moved into her own apartment from Covenant House’s emergency shelter, an opportunity from Covenant House and Hollyburn Properties Ltd. means she’ll now be able to pursue her goal of becoming a paediatric nurse.
The apartment has been made possible through an innovative partnership between Covenant House and Hollyburn. In the second year of the agreement, the company is now providing two bachelor units as part of Covenant House’s new transitional and stable housing plan to offer more youth housing in the community while they continue to access the agency’s support.
Youth in the units pay about one-third of market rent and receive complete furnishings. In addition, Hollyburn is donating the rent paid by the young tenants back to the agency at the end of each year, subsidizing the entire cost of the units. For the past six years, the company has had a similar partnership with Covenant House Vancouver in that city.
“I wouldn’t have expected this from anyone. It’s amazing,” Mary says. ”It’s a huge stress relief financially and it’s letting me get in touch with myself and gain confidence.”
At 18, family members she’d been sent to live with, told her she’d have to leave and get by on her own. She moved around, living with other family and friends. When a relationship with a boyfriend began to turn abusive, she found her way to Covenant House.
“I’ve been self-reliant, but there were always other people around. Now I can focus on myself and my goals and not worry,” Mary says. She is holding down two jobs until she goes to college in the new year.
With stable housing and the ongoing support of Covenant House workers, Jason, 23, will have the chance to continue to hone the life skills he needs to move to independent living. He will take on more financial responsibility for the cost of the unit this year while Hollyburn’s reimbursement plan remains the same. Jason is now in a college sheet metal program on a job placement and is working weekends at a grocery store.
He will also continue to benefit from the guidance and support of the Hollyburn building supervisors who have played an important role in his journey over the past year.
“We are so grateful to Hollyburn for its extended commitment to providing stable, affordable housing that is allowing more of our youth to gain real life experience with our continued support,” says Covenant House Executive Director Bruce Rivers.
“Hollyburn is incredibly proud of our long-term partnership with Covenant House. We are committed to continuing our support of Covenant House, and challenge other property management companies to get involved in supporting those who need housing most by giving them just that—actual housing!,” Mike Capone, Hollyburn General Manager, Ontario.
“To date, we have had 10 youth successfully graduate from the program, and five are currently living in our subsidized apartments in Toronto and Vancouver.”
With record-high daily numbers of youth staying longer at the agency’s shelter, Rivers says many homeless youth continue to be “stuck” and unable to move forward for several reasons.
“The city’s affordable housing crisis presents a major challenge for homeless youth. Often this is compounded by their lack of basic life skills so they need our ongoing help to make their own way successfully,” Rivers says. “We see Covenant House as the hub with a full range of support and our new community housing opportunities as the spokes.” The agency has two additional units through a similar agreement with The Daniels Corporation.
Covenant House offers the broadest range of services under one roof, including crisis shelter and longer-term housing, employment and educational assistance. Last year, the agency served about 3,000 youth.
Hollyburn is among the largest Canadian-owned and operated property management companies in the country with fine rental apartments in 75 buildings in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Hollyburn is a proud partner of several charity organizations within its communities.