After years of waiting, Toronto’s first LGBT youth shelter is set to open.
The YMCA’s Sprott House, located on Walmer Road in the Annex, is now accepting applications from queer youth in need of transitional housing.
“It’s pretty incredible that it’s finally happening,” says Kate Miller, the director of Sprott House.
The YMCA will start filling up the 25 available beds in February and is looking to have them all occupied by mid-March.
Sprott House was one of two LGBT-oriented youth shelter programs that Toronto City Council approved funding for in early 2015. Researchers have estimated that anywhere between 25 to 40 percent of homeless youth in Toronto identify as LGBT.
Miller says that the transition of Sprott House from a more general youth shelter to a queer-focused shelter has been a long process.
“We really had to work with the existing residents to find them housing,” she says.
The YMCA has also brought in new staff, including a counsellor experienced with LGBT youth, and provided additional training to their current staff in anticipation of the launch.
“Most of our full-time staff identify under the LGBTQ2S umbrella,” says Miller, who identifies as a bisexual woman.
Many of the services that Sprott House provides will be similar to other transitional housing shelters, such as life skills development. But other aspects will be geared specifically toward queer youth, like community outings that celebrate queer identities.
According to Miller, the reception from the queer community has been overwhelming.
“The queer and trans community members who really advocated for the programs are really happy that it’s opening its doors,” she says.
A number of people have been calling in and asking for ways they can help out, she adds. Donations, including cash, clothing, food and books have also been pouring in.
“We had a [gay-straight alliance] from a Catholic school that did a bake sale and got donations and that was awesome,” she says.
For people who are looking to get involved, Miller says that Sprott House is always in need of warm winter clothing, toiletries and food for its residents.
Anyone looking to apply can go to the YMCA’s website and fill out a short form. Applications are due Jan 20.
“We just want to get as many applications as we can,” Miller says. “I would hate to hear that somebody didn’t know about the program so they didn’t have the chance to apply.”