A year ago today, YMCA Sprott House opened its doors as the first transitional housing program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning and Two-Spirited (LGBTQ2S) youth in Toronto. Sprott provides up to a year of housing for 25 LGBTQ2S youth between the ages of 16 and 24 years old.
LGBTQ2S youth in Toronto face many barriers — they experience transphobia and homophobia within housing programs, and experience homelessness at higher rates than other youth. Sprott provides youth with much more than a roof over their heads; the program includes resources and services for youth to reach their full potential by supporting them as they make a significant transition in their lives. Programming offered at Sprott supports individual goals while maintaining a strong sense of community amongst residents with activities such as Sunday dinners, house meetings, and workshops. House meetings also provide an opportunity for youth to share their feedback and experiences about the program.
This feedback has helped staff adapt Sprott’s program to meet the needs of LGBTQ2S youth in several ways. Sprott prioritizes hiring staff that have personal and professional experience with the LGBTQ2S community, and who commit to connecting youth with supports and experience dealing with social barriers that result from homophobia and cissexism. The program’s focus includes celebrating LGBTQ2S identity through arts, programs, and activities, and providing youth with connections to arts programs like The Studio and Buddies in Bad Times. Sprott staff also help youth engage in practices that actively create a safe and affirming housing program by encouraging youth to talk openly about their preferred name, pronouns or trans-health specific needs with staff, and accompanying them to programs and events like Unity Conference, BQY, and Pride events where they can meet other LGBTQ2S youth.
The importance of youth making long-lasting connections is a key component of the program’s focus, and will support their success after they leave Sprott.
“Some youth are feeling anxious, but many are also feeling excited to have their own place for the very first time,” explains YMCA Sprott House Director Kate Miller. “Our hope is that youth moving out of Sprott are aware of their rights and the systems of supports that exist for them, are better able to advocate for themselves, and have increased confidence to go after the things that they want and deserve.”
The stability that Sprott offers youth at this important stage in their lives allows them to create connections, explore their own identities, and set goals for themselves. As Sprott evolves and grows into the second year of operation, the program will continue to create change for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto.