TORONTO – Youth homelessness, food insecurity, and isolation are major problems affecting 2SLGBTQ youth in Toronto. Up to 40 per cent of Toronto youth experiencing homelessness identify as 2SLGBTQ, with many facing violence and discrimination in the shelter system. Canadian 2SLGBTQ youth are disproportionately more likely to be isolated and depressed, issues which can be exacerbated by pandemic stress and hostile family situations.
Supporting Our Youth (SOY) is a community development program of Sherbourne Health that has assisted thousands of youth navigating these issues since 1998. We help youth gain secure housing, meals, skills-building, and vital programming to help them overcome life’s challenges.
This year, SOY is working with a reduced budget and a greater need for all of our services.
Since last year, we have seen the attendance for some of our drop-in programs, including Black Queer Youth (BQY) – which serves African, Black, and Caribbean youth – and TransFusion Crew – a support group for trans youth — double. We are currently the most visited 2SLGBTQ community programming provider for trans youth in Toronto. The impact of the pandemic on marginalized 2SLGBTQ youth means our youth have reduced support to live safe, healthy, authentic lives.
For 2022-2023, SOY is facing a budget shortfall of $90,000, due to reduced support from government funding sources and increased demand. This decrease could directly affect SOY’s vital drop-in programming, which provides 2SLGBTQ youth pathways to skills building and employment opportunities, wellness supports, and community connection. Like many other Canadians, we are also impacted by the increased costs of food and rising inflation, making it more expensive for us to offer some supports.
Amid these concerns, we are hopeful Torontonians, 2SLGBTQ communities, and allies will rally to participate in an important fundraiser for Supporting Our Youth, and the newcomer, underhoused, racialized, and marginalized youth who rely on our services.
Sherbourne Health will host the 21st annual SOY Bowlathon fundraiser on Saturday, October 22 at The Ballroom, a fun-filled afternoon where bowling teams will play to help us reach our $40,000 fundraising goal.
Quotes from SOY Participants
“Moving here as a queer and trans teenager on the run from an abusive and transphobic home environment, attending the SOY program when I got into Toronto helped me find community and support.” – Markus
“Especially for queer and LGBT folks, [SOY is] really what we need. As simple as that. It’s one of the best things to happen to me.” – Leila
“It’s a safe place to be who we truly are, share our emotions, and also helps with mental health.” – Mckandy.