Eva’s Satellite has undergone a transformation in recent years.

According to Senior Site Manager Monique Thompson, Canada’s first harm reduction shelter for youth has been called upon to almost exclusively support refugees or asylum seekers since the summer of 2022.

“For a lot of our youth, their first stop after getting off the plane is Eva’s Satellite. They simply have nowhere else to go. Some are as young as 17 or 18 and may be fleeing persecution or forced marriages. They are leaving everything behind and starting from scratch.”

Today, almost 90% of youth at Eva’s Satellite self-identify as a refugee or refugee claimant. Within that group, 68% self-identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and 91% self-identify as Black. Monique says the majority are from East Africa and notes that their needs are different from Satellite’s previous residents. “Newcomer youth are focused on immigration status and getting a work permit. Our case workers have learned how to apply for legal aid, find trusted lawyers, and navigate work permits and other newcomer documentation to provide the right support,” said Monique.

Staff at Satellite have partnered with clothing banks, found a food vendor that specializes in Afri- and Caribbean food, and created connections with newcomer services, including interpreters, to help complete work permits and immigration documents. Youth are also turning to each other for help. “Peer support is very powerful. They can learn a lot from others who have gone through the same steps. They’re great at supporting each other,” said Monique.

Once youth receive work permits, a housing worker helps guide them through living independently. Monique says that most newcomers are eager to move out of the shelter and often secure housing with a peer they met at Eva’s. “They’re really open to learning and taking part in Canadian traditions and they just want to be able to stay here and be contributing members of society.”