Here at YWS, our mission is to empower youth to reach their individual potential. We strive to end homelessness, one youth at a time, by providing emergency residential supports and services to youth aged 16-24 within our community. Since our founding over 30 years ago, YWS has developed a model of care that identifies and builds on our clients’ strengths and resiliency. We do this by providing them with opportunities to develop their confidence and key skills they’ll need to navigate life and overcome challenges. We don’t just provide a warm bed for a night; we offer practical advice and guidance from trained staff, wrap-around support programs, and a safe, comfortable home. Our goal is to move young people out of homelessness, towards independent, stable living.
In 2019, we developed a Strategic Plan that aimed to assist YWS youth to safely exit out of homelessness to stable living. Stable living was defined by lived voices as “income, a roof, a support network, and the opportunity to pursue interests or goals”. Within our 2019 Strategic Plan, we vowed to be adaptive and agile, to be innovative and take calculated risks, to be open to change, and to work in partnership with other organizations when necessary to obtain best outcomes. We have stayed true to our promises made, and are very excited to announce our new initiative focused on safe and affordable housing within our community: The Helix Project.
The Helix Project is an exciting new initiative designed to enhance our vision to end youth homelessness. It will guide YWS as we evolve our existing programs and services and take our mission to empower youth to reach their full potential to a whole new level.
As we move forward, YWS will continue to expand to provide at-risk youth with an equal opportunity to excel and to offer safe, supportive and affordable shelter for those in need. The Helix Project will encompass the mission and vision of YWS, while incorporating new solutions for housing within the GTA and beyond. Founded upon the principles that guide our work, The Helix Project will lead us on this journey of evolution as YWS continues to grow over the years to come. Together, we will end youth homelessness, one youth at a time, one step at a time.
“We aim to foster new, innovative solutions to increase the availability and accessibility of transitional and supportive housing, and to provide advanced opportunities to empower and support those in need.”
The Helix symbol is a symbol of growth, evolution, and strength, providing structure for plants and animals, allowing them to pass through environmental challenges. When a root of a plant comes across a barrier during growth, it will summon more energy to that part of the plant in order to work to create a helix. When faced with a challenge, the root’s response is to find a way, and it does so by twisting and twirling to conquer its challenge, evolving into something strong, stable, and truly beautiful.
In its very nature, the helix is the definition of resilience. Resiliency is the ability to withstand, adapt and grow in the face of adversity, trauma, and tragedy. It is the ability to bounce back despite all odds. At Youth Without Shelter, our residents are the epitome of resiliency.
As YWS continues to expand in order to provide wrap-around supports and care for the youth we serve, we are very excited to announce the opening of Helix House, a supportive housing property in the city of Toronto. This space will provide our youth with the safe transitional housing needed as they continue with their studies as an extension of our Stay in School program, while at the same time providing supportive/affordable housing to the city of Toronto.
Earlier this year, YWS purchased a supportive housing building at 556 Bathurst Street, formerly known as Toronto’s Home Service Association (HSA). HSA was a Black-operated community centre that provided accessible counselling, health and legal support, and a nursery for Toronto’s Black community during the early-mid 1900s. We plan to preserve the spirit of resiliency of this historic building as we open Helix House – a supportive housing unit for those in need.
Upon opening, YWS will operate 5 rooms as an expansion of our Stay in School program, providing safe housing to stable youth within our program who are actively continuing their education. We will provide these youth with the supports needed to successfully complete their schooling, with a seamless transition to enter independent living upon graduation. There is a Stay in School (SIS) office directly on site, staffed with 24hr professional support, in order to ensure that the transition into a new, elevated SIS home within Helix House is a comfortable one for each youth moving in.
We are very excited to take our model of care and wrap-around supports to greater heights thanks to the dedicated support of our staff, donors, supporters, and community allies. Together, we will not only “end youth homelessness, one youth at a time, one step at a time”, we will also continue to empower youth to reach their individual potential.