Plan goes into action to give homeless youth more support, opportunities

TORONTO, ON, Sept. 5, 2013 – New initiatives to give homeless youth more opportunities for stable housing, jobs, education and support are moving forward as Covenant House Toronto puts its five-year, comprehensive strategic plan into action.

After laying the groundwork over the past year, the agency is moving ahead with key priorities to help its young people achieve better outcomes, says Covenant House Executive Director Bruce Rivers. “Our plan has provided us with a solid foundation to build more of the services and support our youth need to better move to and maintain independence.”

Over the past five years, the agency has seen record-high daily numbers of young people with increasingly complex needs who are more “stuck” and unable to move forward.

An estimated 35 percent of these youth are coping with mental health issues – often the result of their experiences at home or on the street. About 40 percent of Covenant House youth report that they have been involved with the child welfare system.

While high youth unemployment and the lack of affordable housing are barriers to homeless youth, many also lack a high school diploma, job experience or the life skills to make it on their own.

“These young people face major challenges in moving forward with their lives,” Rivers says. “We believe our plan is a solid blueprint to address these needs.”

By next summer, the agency expects to acquire or lease apartments for up to 10 youth and continue to support them with practical life skills training. It will also introduce more job training in building maintenance and construction with industry partners and more on-site job-readiness training. As well, it will continue to expand life skills training and launch an aftercare program to enable youth to stay connected while they live in the community.

Work on the plan last year included research, pilot testing, identifying new additional funding sources and building numerous new community partnerships.

In 2011, the agency’s planning process identified the key priority areas to enable homeless youth to better succeed. In addition to housing, employment and education, it also recommended gaining more treatment options for youth with mental health issues through other community agencies, improving outcome measures to better track young people’s progress, diversifying the agency’s revenue sources and strengthening advocacy efforts on behalf of homeless and at-risk youth.

To kick-start the plan, the agency undertook an extensive six-month consultation with a multitude of stakeholders, including youth using the agency’s services, donors, community partners, government and other service agencies. It also undertook an in-depth review and analysis of other local, national and international youth service providers.

As Canada's largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. More than a place to stay, it provides 24/7 crisis shelter and a longer-term residential program along with comprehensive services to about 3,000 youth annually, including education, counselling, health care, employment assistance and job training.

For more than 30 years, Covenant House has helped thousands of young people move from a life on the street to a life with a future. To do all of this, the agency relies on donors for about 80 percent of its almost $20-million operating budget.

Contact: Rose Cino
Manager, Communications
(416) 204-7081

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