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IN Community: Toronto’s First Shelter For LGBTQ2+ Adults Is Now Open

New shelter funded by the City of Toronto, operated by Homes First Society and supported by The 519…

By Jumol Royes 

During the holiday season, we’re encouraged to reflect on our duty to care for the most vulnerable members of our communities, especially those experiencing homelessness. 

The opening of Toronto’s first transitional shelter for LGBTQ2+ adults is a reminder that everyone needs and is deserving of a place to call home. 

Funded by the City of Toronto, operated by Homes First Society, a provider of affordable, stable housing and support services, and supported by The 519, Canada’s largest LGBTQ2+ community centre, the newly-opened, dedicated shelter for LGBTQ2+ adults is located in the city’s west end and provides beds for up to 20 people, prioritizing temporary housing for LGBTQ2+ refugees with a focus on trans women.

An estimated 12 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto identify as LGBTQ2+, with 3.1 per cent identifying as trans, non-binary and/or Two-Spirit. That’s according to the city’s most recent Street Needs Assessment.

The new shelter seeks to address community concerns – identified after consultations with more than 150 community members with lived experience of homelessness as well as service providers – like a lack of dedicated shelter supports for LGBTQ2+ adults; violence and discrimination experienced by trans folks, specifically women, in the shelter system; and the stigma and barriers encountered by refugees upon their arrival in Canada.

The shelter features an innovative program model that aims to build inclusive shelter standards centring the safety, well-being and affirmation of LGBTQ2+ community members. The 519 is the primary referral source for the new program, providing individualized support and group programming and leading follow-up support beyond the shelter setting. 

“For more than 20 years, The 519 has been actively engaged in addressing barriers that 2SLGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness face in the shelter and housing sectors,” said The 519’s executive director, Maura Lawless, in a November 30 news release. 

“As a first step in establishing a dedicated shelter space that is affirming for 2SLGBTQ+ adults, we are laying the groundwork to change the way 2SLGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness are supported and provided lasting solutions to homelessness.”

The City of Toronto provided $30,000 to The 519 to help support the development of a comprehensive program model at the shelter, along with a one-time start-up amount of close to $121,000 to support initial site renovations. The city is also providing an undisclosed annual operating budget.

JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community engagement, a GTA-based storyteller and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Instagram @jumolroyes.  

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