If you need to know how to fill out a student financial aid form, find mental health support in Toronto or get familiar with your rights as a tenant, ask Elise Yusef. 

As a follow-up support worker, she knows how to navigate the many challenges of living in Toronto—and she shares it all with the youth she works with. 

“I’m a trans Black woman, and I was precariously housed for a period of time, so I have an understanding of how difficult independent living can be. There’s a lot to manage as young adults in this city,” she said.  

Working exclusively in the community for a program funded by the City of Toronto and run by Eva’s, Elise has a caseload of youth new to living independently. Some come from the shelter system, while others are refugees or new immigrants. She works with each person for about a year, helping them with the specific life skills they need. 

That might mean learning how to budget for common expenses, save for the future and live within their means. It can also take the form of advice on maintaining personal hygiene, providing recipes for healthy meals and encouraging youth to get moving and be social. 

“A lot of times, I play the role of an aunty. Talking to them about cleaning up their place, sharing tips for success, and encouraging them to take advantage of other programming available at Eva’s, like cooking or graphic arts.” 

She often explores neighbourhoods with youth, connecting them to affordable cultural food sources and other necessities. 

“There are a lot of resources that many people don’t know exist, whether that’s how to access government funding for a gym membership or find ESL courses and recreational activities. The library is a playground of its own,” she said. 

When it comes to finding community, she seeks to understand what matters most to youth and helps them find programs where they can meet people who share the same interests. 

“I try to give youth the tools they need to function in society and build a satisfying life for themselves.”