A "safe, supportive and welcoming" shelter for homeless youth who identify as LGBT will open in the Annex in February.

"It's another step forward for us as a city as we pursue greater equality — not tolerance, not acceptance but real equality," said Coun. Joe Cressy at a news conference Thursday.

"In the past in Toronto, far too often, we've let down some of the most vulnerable."

One in five homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited), according to the 2013 Street Needs Assessment. 

"So many of us have waited a very long time for this day," said Alex Abramovich, a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, who worked extensively on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness for 10 years.

The YMCA Sprott House, on Walmer Road, is the first of two programs for LGBT homeless youth slated to open this year in Toronto and the largest of its kind in Canada. LGBT homeless youth aged 16 to 24 can move into the 25-bed transitional housing facility starting Feb. 1 and can stay up to one year, less a day.

"We knew, and people know, that LGBTQ2S young people are much more likely, for example, to be at risk of suicide and other kinds of mental health difficulties," said Mayor John Tory. "And to just say they're going to seek shelter or get adequate support in places like the existing shelter system, is not an adequate answer."

"This project is very important to me," he said. "It's very important to me because it stands as a symbol of how we do things here, how we live together."

Tory also lauded Annex residents for their willingness and eagerness to help.

"They wanted to be real neighbours. That is the true spirit of Toronto."