To our staff, volunteers, donors, and community of supporters:
Our 2020-21 fiscal year was a challenging one, but it was also a time of positive momentum for our organization. I had the pleasure of leading Eva’s this past year as the interim Executive Director, and formally assumed the role of Executive Director in September 2021.
This year, we prioritized meeting the heightened needs of young people experiencing homelessness while keeping our staff safe. We also continued to move forward on our organizational equity journey by undertaking some important foundational work. Please read on to learn more.
Meeting the unique needs of young people during COVID-19
For homeless youth, who have already survived so much in their young lives, the isolation, fear, and inequities they’ve experienced during the pandemic are contributing additional trauma. We have seen increases in anxiety, mental health, and substance use among the youth we serve, resulting in a need for enhanced mental health and harm reduction support, in addition to housing advocacy and employment counselling.
Building culturally responsive supports for Black youth
As a result of a lack of affordable and safe housing for Black youth, they are over-represented in homeless shelters and transitional homes. Black youth also experience higher rates of housing insecurity and barriers to accessing long-term housing due to the legacy of colonialism and anti-Black racism.
In collaboration with Black community members, we designed a new program to help address the structural and systemic barriers Black youth experience when trying to find stable housing. YOUth Belong reached its capacity in the summer of 2021, providing youth with access to their own housing in a community setting with 24-hour staff supports.
Continuing our equity journey
Eva’s was founded by Eva Smith, a Black woman and community activist. As an organization founded by a Black woman, we have a responsibility to create and maintain a workplace that models anti-oppressive and anti-racism frameworks. We must do this work in honour of Eva Smith’s legacy and the Black and racialized youth who seek our support.
As part of this commitment, we launched an organizational equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) audit in May 2021. This has been a holistic, ongoing process focused on reviewing all aspects of our organization, from the youth we serve, up to our senior leadership and board governance. We will use the findings from this audit to start building a strategic EDI framework for the organization in our 2021-22 fiscal year.
Looking toward the future
In these challenging times, we are inspired by the words of our founder, Eva Smith: “What hurts one of us hurts all of us.”
Even though the pandemic is creating difficulties in everyone’s lives, our community of supporters recognize the unique challenges homeless youth are experiencing and continue to show their support. Thank you.