Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Lindsay Sweeney-Hockin, Senior Development Officer, YMCA of Greater Toronto as part of our charity spotlight series.
On any given night in Toronto, 2,000 youth are homeless, and 21 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S. It is for this very reason that YMCA Sprott House opened its doors last year as a “home for a year” to our first twenty-five LGBTQ2S youth participants. We wanted a way to share their experiences and respect their privacy within this small community, so we put together Jaime’s story, a story exemplifying many of the personal accounts we hear from Sprott House participants.
This is Jaime’s Story
“It wasn’t safe for me to be with my parents. When I told them I was gay, my mom couldn’t even look at me. My dad told me this was my choice, and if I chose this life, I needed to get out. I didn’t at first. We were living in a cramped apartment, everyone was stressed and stretching every dollar. Then the abuse started, from both of them, verbal and emotional at first, and then physical.
It was then when I decided to leave. I didn’t know where I was going. I just wanted a place that was mine, where I didn’t feel alone anymore. I started on friends’ couches, but some nights I found myself with no place at all.
I had nothing: no ID, no forwarding address, no job. Doing anything just to stay afloat meant sleeping in a park. I found myself at youth shelters, where I was given food and a bed, but if another resident didn’t like gay people, I knew it would be a rough night.
Not finding anywhere I could fit made me wonder if the things my parents said were true—that I deserved where I was at and I would never be good enough for more.
“Not finding anywhere I could fit made me wonder if the things my parents said were true—that I deserved where I was at and I would never be good enough for more.”
When an outreach worker told me about Sprott House, things changed for me. I remember my first day when I was greeted by a package in my room which included TTC tokens, some food, and bed sheets—my very own sheets for my very own bed, in a space that would be my home for a year. I slept the full night. It was the first time in twelve months that I could breathe again.
As I settled in at Sprott House, my priorities slowly changed. I didn’t have to think about who was around and if they knew I was gay because everyone is welcomed and celebrated here. I didn’t wonder where my next meal was or where I could take a shower. I could talk to others about what happened to me and trust that they cared.
The staff and other people living together at Sprott House believed in me. We had many similar and different reasons for being there. They helped me see that I could make small changes to move my life forward. It’s at Sprott House, where I can be myself and slowly become okay with that.”
Sprott House is a Supportive Community
The YMCA Sprott House is a home for LGBTQ2S youth who are experiencing homelessness, where 25 participants live together in a caring and fully supported community for up to one year.
Sprott House gives participants their own private living areas including a bedroom, bathroom, and so much more, including workshops to build daily living skills and recreational activities. Some participants access counselling support from staff or resources in the community for a range of mental health issues, substance use, trauma, employment support, or educational resources.
Our message of belonging at Sprott House is generating interest and support from community members as an expression of the kind of city we all want to live in.
“Sprott House aims to show youth what a safe, loving and healthy space means. Instead of living with fear, we live our values of respect and justice every single day. I feel our true success will be measured when our participants realize they have created that safe space within themselves. It moves with you every day in the city and every day of your life.”
– Kate Miller, Director, YMCA Sprott House
The YMCA of Greater Toronto is dedicated to making our communities home to the healthiest children, teens, and young adults.