Providing sustainable economic opportunities for youth living in Toronto Community Housing communities is essential to creating healthy communities. The challenges to that goal are well known: poverty, stigmatization, lack of educational and employment opportunities, lack of community services. To address those challenges, Toronto Community Housing brought together a variety of community partners including agencies, the City, unions, Foundations and funders for an informal evening to begin a dialogue toward the launch of a Sustainable Livelihoods Initiative. The event took place at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel on December 13th, 2007.
The Sustainable Livelihoods Initiative envisions a wrap-around program that provides a strong network of human, personal, social, physical and financial supports for 10 - 15 hard to reach youth (those out of school, out of work, with no connections to community services or supports) over an 18-month period. Building strong futures for youth is a key principle of Toronto Community Housing's CMP commitment to providing economic opportunities for tenants. The elements of the wrap-around approach include providing supports in the five key areas of building youth assets:
(high school completion and specialized training; setting goals; the ability to find and retain good quality work)
- Basic Needs
(access to quality housing, transportation, childcare, nutritious food; personal safety and security)
- Support and connections
(supportive family and peers; developing leadership abilities; ability to participate in decision making)
(self-confidence, independence and motivation; feeling one's social and cultural identity is respected)
- Financial Assets
(financial literacy; ability to earn a decent income to contribute to household income; savings for education)
The Initiative has been enthusiastically received by numerous leading Toronto agencies and funders who attended the event including the YMCA of Greater Toronto, the Youth Challenge Fund, the City of Toronto Youth Employment Partnership, PEACH (Promoting Economic Action and Community Health), the Laidlaw Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and others. These and other community partners look forward to continuing their dialogue early in 2008 toward launching a pilot program in the new year.