Canada’s First Shelter for LGBT Youth

Jan 2016
Alex Abramovich stands outside of Canada’s very first shelter for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness.

Sitting at 21 Walmer Rd in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood is a place uniquely Toronto – from its welcoming spirit to its historic architecture. But Sprott House‘s classic Annex-style is the least of its virtues. Part of the YMCA’s youth housing program, Sprott House is Canada’s first transitional house for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth experiencing homelessness.

Sprott House is equipped to provide residential living for up to 25 people between the ages of 16 and 24 and is specifically designed to meet the needs of LGBT youth. Residents will each get their own room and bathroom, share two kitchens and lounges, and have access to programming such as cooking lessons, life skill seminars, arts projects, and field trips.

On February 1, Sprott House will open its doors. Young people experiencing homelessness, moving out of unsafe situations, sleeping on couches, crashing with friends, or living in other unstable situations are eligible to apply for housing – and can stay for up to a year. The staff will be entirely made up of people from (or who have experience working with) the LGBT community and young people.

Much of the success of this program is due to the leadership of researcher Alex Abramovich, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Alex’s commitment to understanding and solving LGBT youth homelessness has opened community members’ eyes to the issue and given city council the confidence of knowing the initiative would be backed with hard data.

As a result of Alex’s work, the city of Toronto updated its shelter standards for LGBT youth last fall, and mandatory competency training for on-the-ground shelter staff in will begin in February. A second transitional housing program for LGBT youth (which will be run by Egale and serve 30 young people), is set to open in downtown Toronto later this year.