Imagine facing down homelessness before even being old enough to rent a car.
Whether coming from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) or from other parts of the world as refugees, that’s the situation that the youth, many of whom have suffered from some form of abuse, are in when seeking safe shelter at Youth Without Shelter’s Etobicoke location.
Youth Without Shelter (YWS) is a charity that offers shelter and non-judgmental support for youth between the ages of 18-24 who are facing these challenges. For nearly a decade Concert has been proud to align with and support this organization.
“It was close to ten years ago, while we were about to begin sales for The Kip District in Etobicoke, that we saw an opportunity to partner with this amazing organization,” says Kelly Wilson, Concert’s Vice President, Development & Eastern Operations. “At the time, we thought that, as a community builder, we should find a local charity organization to partner with. And as a home builder, we were immediately drawn towards supporting homeless youth.”
While YWS does receive some funding from the government, it heavily relies on donations and volunteers to carry out the work. Concert’s first initiative with YWS was tied to sales of the first phase of The Kip District. For every unit sold, $750 was donated to YWS – totaling $214,000 over four years.
In addition to 33 emergency shelter beds, YWS also offers a long-term support program, the Stay in School initiative. This program provides 20 youth with long-term housing and stable support in an environment with coaching and mentoring that helps them stay in school – whether secondary or post-secondary. The shelter supplies all meals, clothing and essentials, as well as transit fare, computers and even cell phones. To remain in this program the youth must maintain a certain grade point average – and the graduation success rate is over 80%.
Over the years, Concert’s involvement with YWS has evolved and grown, with staff volunteers becoming involved in a variety of ways through YWS programming. At our annual Youth Engagement Day, Concert staff host and participate alongside YWS youth and staff in a fun-filled day of competitive team events and a BBQ lunch. Everyone leaves the day with great memories and smiles on their faces.
Every February YWS hosts ‘Time for Change’, where volunteers gather donations along transit paths to fund transit passes so the youth can get to and from school and other critical appointments. Prior to the pandemic, Concert staff would wear a YWS shirt and join in – raising nearly $2,000 in one morning alone.
Most recently, Concert has assisted with the strategic growth of YWS, with Wilson sitting on the Board of Directors for the last three years and helping to expand the Stay in School program at a newly acquired property – a 24 bed rooming house with six vacant rooms. Several other Concert staff also played an instrumental role in the acquisition, providing due diligence and other forms of support, and they continue to provide property and asset management advice and training to YWS staff.
“For almost ten years, Concert Properties has widely supported YWS,” says Steve Doherty, Executive Director, YWS. “This past year we began the process of expanding our footprint through the purchase of a new property. If it were not for the outstanding support of the Concert team, who took the time to advise us, assist with financial modeling and lend their vast knowledge, this would not have been possible. They share our desire for individuals to realize their dream of having a great place to call home.”