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Street Outreach Services gets community boost

ACT, 519 offer support and office space

While the city decides on the fate of the 2013 budget, those who work with Toronto’s most marginalized street people are doing what they can to ensure no one is left out in the cold.

Alex Lougheed, 25, who recently restarted Street Outreach Services (SOS) on his own, says there has been an outpouring of support and generosity from the community since Xtra reported on his work.

SOS is one of the only support centres for youth sex workers living on the streets in Toronto. Lougheed says he currently serves about 350 clients, mostly homeless queer youth between the ages of 16 and 30.

Lougheed, who runs the organization on individual donations, says the 519 Church Street Community Centre has offered space for a drop-in centre.

“Since the article came out I have been getting so many calls, and many have been for donations and offers to help with volunteering,” he says. “I got two $100 donations from individual people.”

One donation came from a local lawyer who promises to be an ongoing supporter of SOS, he says.

More good news came when the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) offered Lougheed office space if he needs it.

But Lougheed says SOS is barely making a dent in the enormous and critical problem of homelessness, particularly for queer and trans youth, sex workers and other marginalized individuals who often fall through the cracks and feel unsafe in the shelter system.

“I feel that people in Toronto really care about this issue, other than [Mayor] Rob Ford,”he says. “We need youth beds. People need places to go to stay warm overnight. Sleeping outside leads to so many other problems. Preventing that from happening saves money in the long run.

“I want to see the mayor show a little compassion. Youth need a place to go at night and feel safe.”