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Sprott House opens new home for LGBTQ2S youth

February 2nd, 2016 · No Comments

Specialized facility meets urgent need

YMCA Sprott House provides transitional housing for 25 LGBTQ2S youth. CORRINA KING/GLEANER?NEWS

YMCA Sprott House provides transitional housing for 25 LGBTQ2S youth.

By Summer Reid

Homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited (LGBTQ2S) youth finally have a place to sleep without intimidation and harassment.

YMCA Sprott House (21 Walmer Rd.) this month began providing transitional housing for 25 homeless LGBTQ2S youth, aged 16 to 24.

“It’s another step forward for us as a city, as we pursue greater equality — not tolerance, not acceptance — but real equality,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) at the facility’s opening on Jan. 14.

Cressy explained that Sprott House will not, on its own, be able to tackle the challenges that these populations in Toronto face, but it will provide them with a safe haven. Approximately 2,000 homeless youth sleep on Toronto’s streets on any given night, and of these, one in five identify as LGBTQ2S.

“Those statistics are simply unacceptable,” said Diane Sinhuber, chair of the board of directors at the YMCA of Greater Toronto. “The YMCA of Greater Toronto has long understood that there is a pressing need for transitional housing facilities dedicated to serving LGBTQ2S young people.”

LGBTQ2S youth are more vulnerable to mental health concerns, an elevated risk of physical and sexual exploitation, substance use, and suicide, explained Dr. Alex Abramovich, a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. And without specialized programs, LGBTQ2S youth have nowhere to go.

“Focused responses including specialized housing programs, like the YMCA Sprott House, are absolutely critical to meeting this population’s needs and to providing inclusive, affirming, and safe spaces,” said Abramovich.

That’s why the YMCA is dedicated to providing youth with a positive and safe space to live. The facility’s staff will all be very accepting and provide a wide range of support to help these youth transition into adulthood.

“The YMCA believes, with great conviction, that all young people deserve a chance to live healthy and prosperous lives,” said Sinhuber.

Sprott House’s director, Kate Miller, said that LGBTQ2S youth have been asking for a specialized facility for a long time.“These youth are experts on their own lives, and we are responding to something that they have clearly identified as a need.”

Mayor John Tory, who also attended the opening, vowed that this facility would stand as a symbol of how the city works together for the greater good, and said he was proud of how open and accepting of the facility the Annex community has been.

“Not only did the neighbours in this area react without a sense of apprehension, or any other kind of thing,” he said, “they came forward to say they wanted to help make this happen. They wanted to make friends with people here; they wanted to be partners and real neighbours; that is the true spirit of Toronto.”

That openness is in direct contrast to the reception facing the Yonge Street Mission (YSM), which announced last November that it would be moving to a newly renovated 24,000-square-foot space on Spadina Avenue just north of Dundas Street West. Many members of the Chinatown Business Improvement Area have said they believe that the YSM would increase the presence of street youth in the area, and intimidate their customers, especially the elderly. Business owners and residents of Chinatown signed a petition to send to Tory asking him to stop the YSM’s move into the area.

“Annexians are often and quite wrongly accused of being the archetypical NIMBYists, resistant to change and obstructive to new developments either physical or social,” said David Harrison, chair of the Annex Residents’ Association. “However, we firmly believe that there should be a home and a place for everyone. And, in this way, the Annex is inclusive, creative, caring, and generous.

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