January 14, 2016 - CAMH Researcher Alex Abramovich helped launch Canada’s first transitional housing for LGBTQ youth on Thursday.
The YMCA Sprott House, located at 21 Walmer Rd. in Toronto, will provide a safe and supportive environment for up to a year for 25 youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer between the ages of 16 and 24.
“I have never felt more proud of our city than I do this morning," said Alex who spoke at the launch of the program along with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Cressy.
(L to R): Alex Abramovich, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Joe Cressy, David Harrison, Chair, Annex Resident’s Assoc. and Diane Sinhuber, Chair, Board of Directors, YMCA Greater Toronto.
Alex, a Postdoctoral Fellow, Social and Epidemiological Research Department has been studying the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth for a decade and advocating for safe housing for LBGTQ youth.
“LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable to mental health concerns and face increased risk of physical and sexual exploitation, substance use and suicide,” said Alex. “Specialized housing programs, like the YMCA Sprott House, are absolutely critical to meet this population's needs and to provide inclusive, affirming, and safe spaces.”
Toronto City Council earmarked $600,000 for the Sprott House project.
“In the 2015 budget we made a monumental investment to support members of the LGBTQ community who have been left behind,” said Mayor John Tory. “The YMCA Sprott House will provide a safe, inclusive space for those who need a helping hand.”
A 2013 study found that 21 per cent – one in five homeless youth in Toronto – identify as LGBTQ, but the number could be as high as 40 per cent. Most end up on the street due to family breakdown and mental health problems.
“It breaks my heart when I interview young people and they share stories about how they are not safe in shelters, and are living in parks and conditions that nobody should be living in,” said Alex. “By developing programs for this population of young people, it sets an example for all services and the rest of the province. It sets an example for Canada.”
The YMCA is currently accepting referrals through their website until January 20th. Clients will being moving into the Sprott House on February 1st. The YMCA anticipates that all 25 beds will be occupied by mid-March.