ETOBICOKE [Peter Paul Media] — Companies regularly donate time preparing meals for grateful residents at Youth Without Shelter [YWS] and last week, PeterPaul.ca embedded with LSM Insurance, a Markham-based life insurance brokerage, on a beautiful evening for a barbeque and good times.
The YWS kitchen was well-equipped for cooking with all the ingredients and tools of the trade, neatly organized and clean. It’s located conveniently between an emergency residence, which can accommodate up to 30 youth a night and a residential program which provides youth with meals, clothing and counselling. There are about 50 youth here at any one time.
Despite the bleak circumstances, YWS makes headway consistently like Wednesday, when the organization said via Twitter that 13 of its youth have gained employment in June.
LSM associates prepared BBQ chicken, burgers [both veggie and beef], shrimp and corn. “It was great, I loved it and the chicken was amazing,” an unidentified resident said. Some, if not most of the residents at YWS are under the age of 18. LSM has been in the life insurance business since the early nineties while utilizing over 100 brokers across Canada.
The spacious exterior in the backyard has a comfortable feel where a huge grill awaits volunteers at the end of a picturesque trail. Residents, however, ate inside on this night, but appreciated it much the same.
YWS routinely hosts fund raising and charitable events around Ontario and encourages others to volunteer their time for homeless youth when possible. There are many ways to help or volunteer directly at Youth Without Shelter and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable.
“Your team coming into our home and preparing a lovely BBQ dinner for our youth allows our residents to see that the greater community really cares,” said YWS volunteer Mike Burnett in a thank you email to LSM. “Thank you for nourishing young bodies and mind. You are helping us end homelessness one youth at a time.”
YWS has provided over 32,000 safe-bed nights since 2011, an astounding number considering many still avoid shelters and decide to stay on the streets. We caught up with a former YWS resident on Thursday via email.
“I was 24 when I first showed up at YWS’s doorstep. The first thing I saw on that snowy night was the smile of a volunteer, who immediately made me a bowl of soup and some tea.”
“Listen, I am not saying shelters are good or bad, but I’ve been to many and YWS was, by far, the best,” the resident, who requested anonymity, said. He added that he didn’t want to be identified because it still has a negative impact on him up to today, including job interviews.
He immigrated to Toronto from Greece as a baby and fell through the cracks after domestic violence ruined his emotional state and educational opportunities. Years after the trauma, he now resides in Calgary with steady employment.
“I will never forget them. They saved my life.”