The City of Toronto is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Yet, we have the largest homeless population in Canada. As temperatures dip, especially last week, when Toronto reached -21 degrees (not to mention the wind chill!), the city’s homeless are left no choice but to face freezing conditions. Everyone deserves a warm place to stay and call home all year round. According to the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat (HPS), there is an estimate of between 150,000 and 300,000 individuals who experience homelessness in Canada each year. 12,000 of those are in Ontario alone, and 28 per cent of homeless people in Toronto are youth. This is why affordable housing and shelters are so vital for many people to survive in the city. There are incredible communities right here in Toronto’s Entertainment District like Eva’s which provides shelter, housing, and support for at-risk and homeless youth from ages 16-24. Inspired by the legacy of passionate activist Eva Maud Smith, Eva’s Place first opened its doors in 1994 in North York. Over the next 10 years, Eva’s saw an expansion including two additional locations: Eva’s Satellite and Eva’s Phoenix. They provide enormous support such as counselling, employment training, educational support, independent living programs where they teach critical life skills, and recreation programs that engage in health and wellness, but also arts and culture. Today, they remain one of the eight youth organizations in Toronto who continue to prevent and reduce youth homelessness. We’re sharing what we learned after chatting about this growing organization with Director of Communications and Public Education Andrea Gunraj.
- Tell us about Eva’s mission and the role the organization plays in Toronto.
For 25 years, Eva’s has provided shelter, transitional housing, programs, and caring support to diverse young people experiencing homelessness. Every night, we provide safe shelter to 123 young people. We aim to build young peoples’ skills, community connection, and health and well-being so they can find homes and build brighter futures. Our role in Toronto is to provide crisis support and increase housing options for young people who tend to have the lowest access to support than their housed peers. Eva’s wouldn’t be here without our founder, Eva Maud Smith, who rallied the community to open our first shelter, Eva’s Place. And we wouldn’t be here without caring community members enabling our impact and supporting the true brilliance of young people at Eva’s.
- With the three shelters dispersed around the city, why operate in the Toronto Entertainment District? What goes on inside Eva’s 401 Richmond headquarters?
Our Eva’s administrative office is located at 401 Richmond, a short distance from our Eva’s Phoenix transitional housing and employment training facility at 60 Brant Street. It’s great being in a building with like-minded, community-based organizations. We’ve created some great partnerships, for example, we have an exciting public exhibit at Urbanspace Gallery [inside 401 Richmond building will feature our special 25th anniversary public exhibit, End Youth Homelessness in the 6ix. It’s very exciting and we want to invite the whole community to check it out!
We also appreciate being close by to Eva’s Phoenix, which offers 50 young people independent housing for up to 1 year, along with programming to build life skills, housing skills, and employment competencies. Eva’s Phoenix is also home to our Eva’s Print Shop, a social enterprise commercial digital printer that provides graphic communications and print training to young people experiencing homelessness and housing precarity. At the same time, all proceeds of the print shop go right back into Eva’s emergency supports for young people experiencing homelessness. Everyone in Toronto needs to print at Eva’s Print Shop; it’s a win-win for our city!
- What do you like best about working in the Toronto Entertainment District? Can you name a few of your favourite places or things in the area?
- Are there any upcoming community initiatives happening in the area?
This is a generous community. Lots of partners in the area have supported Eva’s, whether it be financial, printing with Eva’s Print Shop, or supporting our events and helping spread the word. We love the opportunity to connect with such a caring community, and we want more of these partnerships because Eva’s can’t do it alone and young people at Eva’s deserve every kind support to journey to better tomorrow. We have to give a big shout out to our neighbours who help us make an impact: restaurants, businesses, other community organizations and groups, and so many local volunteers. Between February to April, the UrbanSpace Gallery in the 401 Richmond building will feature our special 25th anniversary public exhibit, End Youth Homelessness in the 6ix. We want to encourage our neighbours to come out, learn about our vision for a Toronto free of youth homelessness, and take actions in our interactive exhibit. This is the year to bring the number of homeless youth in Toronto from 2000 per night to zero.
- What’s the best way for our readers to get involved with Eva’s.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and sign up for our emailing list. Donate here! Your donation, whatever size, will make a huge impact. Eva’s is a Top 10 High Impact Charity in Canada, selected by Charity Intelligence, which means your donation counts and changes lives for the better.