Many people know the YMCA of Greater Toronto for our uplifting and inclusive health and fitness programs. But we’re helping to change lives outside the gym, too. Donor support means we can provide safety and shelter to youth who need it, employment support to those struggling to find work, and counselling services to people experiencing mental health challenges.
The impacts of COVID-19 have seriously affected youth at risk like Jamie. Struggling to make ends meet, and facing increasing tensions at home during lockdowns, too many have been left without a safe place to sleep. With your support, we work to ensure every young person can find shelter while getting the assistance they need, including mental health supports and substance-use counselling for those who need it.
Employment is also key for youth to lift themselves out of vulnerable circumstances and better their lives. We’re supporting both individuals like Mohit and businesses as they recover and rebuild from COVID-19. Your generosity ensures we can support jobseekers at every stage of the process, from identifying opportunities to writing effective resumés, and preparing for interviews. The YMCA of Greater Toronto’s wide range of employment services help thousands of people find jobs each year.
Donor generosity helps people in our community who are facing challenges access the housing, employment, and mental health services they need to thrive. The stories below highlight some of the ways your support of the YMCA of Greater Toronto can help the most vulnerable in our community access the help they need.
When Jamie came out to his parents, their reaction wasn't what he had hoped for. His father told him he needed to leave the cramped apartment their family shared. With nowhere to go, Jamie endured relentless verbal and physical abuse until he simply couldn't anymore. He left, uncertain of his future.
Jamie wanted a place to call his own but had no idea how to search. With no ID, no forwarding address, and no job, the odds were stacked against him. Doing anything just to stay afloat meant he sometimes slept in a park or an often-unwelcoming shelter.
Not finding anywhere he fit left Jamie wondering if the things his parents said were true. Then one night he met with an outreach worker who told him about YMCA Sprott House.
When Jamie entered his room at Sprott House, there was a welcome package waiting for him with TTC tokens, food, and clean bed sheets. After a year of uncertainty and homelessness, Jamie slept soundly through the night.
At Sprott House, Jamie didn't have to worry about being judged for being gay. He didn't have to wonder where his next shower or meal would come from, and he always had people to talk to. Slowly, Jamie began opening up about the trauma he'd been through. Y staff helped Jamie to see that he could make small changes and move his life forward.
Sprott House is a place of belonging for 25 2SLGBTQ+ youth each year — and it becomes their home. It's just one of the many housing programs offered by the YMCA of Greater Toronto. Your support of the Y can make it possible for more young people like Jamie to exit homelessness and enter adulthood equipped with the life skills and supports they need to thrive.
When Mohit graduated high school, he planned to follow the path most teenagers are told to strive for: attending university. Unfortunately, the program wasn't what he expected — and when he was diagnosed with a mental illness, Mohit knew something had to change.
He'd spent five years self-employed, trying to build a career on YouTube. While Mohit felt isolated and unhappy, he had blamed it on working from home. The diagnosis made him realize he needed some help.
Luckily, Mohit's sister knew to refer him to the YMCA Employment Services’ Youth Job Connection (YJC). YJC provides intensive supports to youth aged 15 to 29 who experience barriers to employment.
He connected with a Job Specialist named Alicia, who quickly became a very influential person in his life. Her encouragement reassured him, building his sense of self-worth and confidence after a rocky few years. The classroom-like environment of the YJC was a natural fit for Mohit — he had missed the structure and camaraderie that came from working alongside others.
Mohit was even able to participate in a session about mental health, where he learned strategies to build physical and mental well-being like dietary changes, exercising, and getting enough sleep. “Being able to manage those things is really important… Not just for a job, but for your daily life,” he explains.
When he completed YJC's workshops, Mohit was able to secure a job at Pearson Airport as a guide for people navigating Canadian customs. It was an entirely different kind of work —and he loved it.
“It’s so rewarding helping people all the time,” he says. “At the end of the day, I feel really good about it.”
Your support of the YMCA of Greater Toronto makes our employment services accessible to community members in need. With your help, we can assist more people like Mohit in connecting to new opportunities and beginning a brighter future.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of program participants, photos used are for illustrative purposes and do not contain a genuine likeness of story subjects