Who is Eva?
“Eva touched the lives of many and her single-minded focus on giving of one’s self to help others continues to echo in our hearts as we hear her name.” (Mavis E. Burke)

Eva Maud Smith (1923-1993) was a woman of action. In 1956 at the age of 33, she immigrated to Canada from Jamaica as a domestic worker. Nothing was easy about her first years in this country, but it wasn’t long before she became a Toronto community leader and a school outreach worker.

No matter her personal circumstances, Eva’s heart was drawn to our city’s young people. She wanted to help them grow up healthy and happy and get a great education, but she realized that the experience of homelessness had become a barrier for some. Eva shed light on hidden youth homelessness, showing decision-makers the scope of the problem and rallying supporters to do something about it. She demonstrated that adult shelters were missing the specialized supports youth needed to avoid chronic homelessness in the long term.

In 1989, through Eva Smith’s trailblazing work the North York Emergency Home for Youth was founded (our first name). Five years later, our original emergency shelter and the first youth-focused shelter in North York, Toronto, Eva’s Place, was opened for homeless youth.

Although Eva Smith passed away in 1993, her spirit has lived on. A few years later, Eva’s Satellite, Canada’s only harm reduction shelter for youth, opened to provide specialized supports for youth challenged by addictions and mental health. And after that, Eva’s Phoenix was launched to provide youth transitional housing and the skills they need to find and maintain housing and employment in the long run. In 2001 our name, North York Emergency Home for Youth, was changed to Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth (Eva’s).

Today, Eva’s serves hundreds of young people and their families every year, offering a unique combination of safe shelter and housing, street outreach, counselling, training, and life skills programs. We support them in building fulfilling, self-sufficient, and healthy lives. We’re also known for taking bold risks and sharing best practices to prevent, reduce, and end youth homelessness.

Older Stronger Wiser Film

Features Eva Smith (at 20:10), along with other Black women talking about their lives in Canada between the 1920s and 1950s. What emerges is a unique history of Canada’s Black people and the legacy of their community elders. Produced by the NFB’s iconic Studio D.

Older Stronger Wiser, Claire Prieto, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Eva Smith believed in young people.

“By losing them, we were also losing our strength and future. That view was truly Eva’s belief.” – My Name is Eva. You can help young people experiencing homelessness start the journey toward brighter futures.