Thank you to everyone who attended our first ever virtual Annual General Meeting on September 23rd. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our youth while welcoming new members to our Board of Directors.
A full video recording of the AGM is now available here to those who were not able to join us.
During this years AGM, although we were unable to come together in person, we heard from 2 of our youth, learnt more about our YWS programs and procedures during COVID-19, and finished off the night with a music video created by a past resident, dedicated to YWS and the Stay in School program.
We look forward to our 2020/21 fiscal year and know that with the continued support from our volunteers and donors that together, we will get through this. Each and every day we are faced with new challenges, but with a dedicated staff and Board team, we are committed to the youth we serve, and will continue to “strive for greatness” and do all that we can to help end youth homelessness, one youth at a time.
A message from our Director of Operations, Ben Omoregie, shared at the meeting:
Good evening everyone, my name is Ben Omoregie and I am the Director of Operations at YWS.
As we all know, the beginning of 2020 came with many uncertainties and challenges. In the shelter system, there was a need to get ahead of the pandemic and create a safe space for the most vulnerable population. The City of Toronto Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA), in collaboration with Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Inner City Health, Associates (ICHA), provided daily directives to all shelter providers to help prevent the spread of COVID -19 in shelters.
The City of Toronto placed preventative measures to track and address community spread through the various cluster groups. Youth Without shelter was part of the North Etobicoke Cluster group.
In March 2020, the YWS management team led by Steve Doherty met to implement a pandemic plan that would keep our shelter open as an essential service and address the health and safety of residents and Staff.
We had non-front line staff working remotely from home to reduce the number of people within the facility at any given time. We stopped accepting new admissions, and we shut our doors to volunteers, including on-site counseling support. We continue to refer our youth to meet remotely with counselors to address their mental health and wellbeing. We stopped approving late nights, overnight, and weekend passes to mitigate the risk to our residents.
The biggest challenge came with the closure of schools and daycare centers, as staff with young children had to stay home to take care of their families. As a shelter that requires 24 -hours staffing and support, it became evident to our entire team that we may have to wear different hats to address the pandemic – we were determined to keep providing a safe, stable, healthy environment for the residents that we serve. So, despite knowing the risk of exposure, many of our dedicated staff worked multiple shifts in order to ensure we could continue meeting the needs of our youth, and we implemented vital Public health protocols in order to reassure everyone – staff, youth, and supporters – that safety is paramount at our shelter.
In April 2020, we received further communication from the City of Toronto due to changes in the number of daily infections and the increased cases in long term care facilities.
- YWS received directives from SSHA to reduce current bed capacity (53) by (20) to promote physical distancing within the shelter
- YWS worked closely with the City of Toronto to access housing initiatives for youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the support of our Housing and After-care team, we were able to secure housing for 20 clients to meet the capacity requirements
- We eliminated the triple rooms and bunk beds. Bed spacing was 6 feet apart, with every youth assigned to single and double rooms.
- The City of Toronto site Inspectors visited our site to ascertain if the facility. E.g., Bed spacing and office space met the physical distancing requirement. YWS complied.
- Inner City Health Associates and Toronto public health through their “ Care Project’ conducted a Risk Stratification report of the shelter and the residents. The Report showed that YWS is a low-risk shelter, and we are already doing a great job of implementing recommended contact precautions.
- We continue to enforce hand washing and Social/physical distancing measures upon entry into the shelter.
- We received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the City of Toronto, Community Cluster groups, Corporate partners, and donors. We currently have a stockpile of PPE for Staff.
In all of this, the YWS family worked together as a unit to put safety first in everything we do. We continue to maintain a “one fight, one-team“ approach during this pandemic. It has been a long road, to say the least, for Staff and residents. However, there has been light at the end of the tunnel as we have so far not had an outbreak of Covid-19 in our shelter since the pandemic began. We all need to continue to follow Public health guidelines and adhere strictly to the existing safety protocols that we have put in place. We are all in this together.
YWS 2019/2020 Annual Report is now available! Please click the image below for your digital copy.