About one-third of the more than 350 students who took part in the annual Walk for Homeless Youth on March 8 were from Upper Canada College’s Intermediate Division.
The event was first established nine years ago in memory of Floyd Honey, a tireless humanitarian and social justice advocate, and was organized by the Floyd Honey Foundation until last year. For the past five years its proceeds have been donated to Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, which organized the 2016 walk with assistance from the Trek for Teens Foundation.
“The walk is in the spirit of youth helping youth,” says Eva’s individual giving manager Firoozeh Radjai. “The walk itself through the streets of Toronto is highly visible to the general public and at the end of the walk the participating students get to hear from Eva’s reps and engage in educational games to learn more about youth homelessness.
“We also hope their friends and families who sponsor them for the walk get exposure to the topic as well as Eva’s work to end youth homelessness.”
This was the eighth consecutive year that UCC boys have taken part and this year’s walk started at UCC, according to Intermediate Division head Derek Poon.
“It is part of our service learning curriculum to get boys to actively participate in community service and to intentionally learn from it,” he says. “The boys get several advising sessions and assembly presentations on youth homelessness, including a presentation from a former homeless youth.
“They are asked to consider specific questions while in the walk, do activities at the end destination and write a reflection about the experience. I think they get a lot out of it, but many may not adequately process it. But the seeds are planted and germinate over time.”
Not all of the schools that participated have finished processing the proceeds from this year’s walk, but Radjai estimates that about $15,000 will be collected. That will raise the total amount raised over the years to approximately $250,000.
The money is used for providing safe shelter, 24/7 crisis counselling, nutritious food, education counselling, employment training, independent living skills training and a range of other programs and services to help youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are experiencing homelessness. The goal is to have them leave the streets permanently and make a successful transition into independent living.
Eva’s operates two emergency shelters — the 40-bed Eva’s Place and the 33-bed Eva’s Satellite — as well as the Eva’s Phoenix transitional housing facility for 50 youth who can stay there for up to a year. Eva’s Phoenix houses the Phoenix Print Shop, a full-service printer that contributes all of its revenue to a printing training program. It also offers a construction and building maintenance program to help youth find stable, decent paying jobs.
Charity Intelligence named Eva’s one of the top 10 high-impact charities in Canada last fall. For every dollar donated to Eva’s, nine dollars worth of social benefits are produced.
Havergal College, Branksome Hall, St. Clement’s School and Blyth Academy Lawrence Park were the other schools that participated this year. Radjai expects many more private and public schools to take part in next year’s Walk for Homeless Youth on March 7.
“UCC has been a long-standing partner in the walk and Eva’s remains very grateful to the school and the students for continuing to participate and help raise awareness and funds for Eva’s and the youth we serve,” says Radjai.