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Canadian government to help fund security system for LGBT youth shelter

Security important for a population targeted by hate crimes, says Egale executive director

Egale executive director Helen Kennedy speaks at a Dec 1, 2017, press conference with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Credit: Riley Sparks/Xtra

The federal government will contribute $47,000 toward a security system for Egale’s Toronto shelter for LGBT youth, public safety minister Ralph Goodale said on Dec 1, 2017.

The shelter, which Egale announced in 2016 and is expected to be open by January 2019, will house up to 31 youth who are living on the street or can’t find stable housing.

The federal money will cover half of the cost of installing security cameras and a secure access system for the building.

“We want these young folks to come to a facility, a house, a home, where they can feel safe and they can get the help that they need,” Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, said at a press conference in Toronto.

Just over 20 percent of homeless youth in Toronto identify as LGBT.

“Simply because of their identities they have nowhere to sleep and nowhere to live, and many of them have lost hope,” Kennedy said.

Many LGBT youth come to Toronto to escape family conflict or find a supportive community — but often they don’t find the safety they’re looking for, Kennedy told Xtra.

“They expect that Church and Wellesley is the land of milk and honey, and it just doesn’t always work out for many people. They need support and they need a sense of how they’re going to survive in a city like Toronto,” she said.

Youth staying at the shelter can stay for up to a year and will have in-house access to crisis counselling. About 35 LGBT youth already use Egale’s crisis counselling services in Toronto every day, Kennedy said — numbers she called “startling.”

Cameras and a security system “may seem like a small thing,” she said, but the rate of violent hate crimes against LGBT Canadians shows why they’re needed.

Reports of hate crimes committed against people because of their sexuality increased again last year, new Statistics Canada data show. Almost three quarters of those crimes are violent, which is far higher than the rate of violent hate crimes targeting any other community.

“This is maybe the first step toward saving a number of lives,” Kennedy said.