York Region non-profit receives new funding to help support homeless youth
360Kids will receive $300K over 3 years from United Way Greater Toronto
Mohammad Aqil Alemi is a single father and says he doesn't know where he would be if it wasn't for 360Kids — an organization that serves homeless and at risk youth in York region.
"Coming from a war-torn country, not knowing English, a lot of times it was really difficult for me," Alemi said.
"When people think about being homeless, it's not just about being in a shelter, it's a lot more than that."
The Richmond Hill based not-for-profit recently got a funding boost from United Way Greater Toronto. The organization will receive $300,000 over a span of three years.
Alemi says he is especially grateful for the location of 360Kids, and he wants people to try to better understand how people end up homeless.
"Humans are homeless because that home does not feel like a home, that home does not feel safe, does not feel like a place to go and relax."
Lack of services part of the challenge
Clovis Grant is the CEO of 360Kids which has been providing services to homeless youth for 30 years and serves around 4,300 young people per year.
He says some of the funding will be put toward early intervention strategies and pilot projects.
"We know that when a young person becomes homeless, the longer they're homeless, the poorer their outcomes," Grant said.
"The funding allows us to look at how we can work together across systems to make sure the experience for our young people who need support get the support in a timely way so they don't have to be homeless for long."
Programming ranges from housing support, education, employment and counselling and supports youth from ages 13 to 26.
Grant says one of the big challenges in York Region is a lack of services and transportation. He says homelessness may not be as visible in York Region as it is in Toronto.
"The lack of a concentration of services is a huge issue whereas in Toronto you can have a downtown area where you can put a lot of services," Grant said.
"So kids would be couch surfing, in parks they'd be in the forest, in cars."
He says outreach is a vital part of the programming because a lot of the young people struggling don't know where to go. Last year they were forced to turn away more than 700 youth at their emergency housing — the group runs two homes where youth can seek temporary shelter.
"We haven't had a night go by where we weren't full."
360Kids is one of seven organizations tied to poverty to receive funding from United Way Greater Toronto.