Diana Gibbs, Director of Development
416-967-1773 ext 203
Charitable number: 126207786RR0001
About this organization
Youthlink is an accredited mental health agency and provides a range of services that are known to improve life outcomes for youth at risk. We are based in Scarborough and serve about 3,500 youth in Scarborough and the downtown core in Toronto. Many of the youth we see are struggling with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, severe family conflict and/or sexual and physical abuse.
Our mandate is to support youth who are most vulnerable and we work closely with schools, child welfare services, the courts and sister agencies. In addition to our main office, we have several other locations for services so that we are available to youth where they live.
History of Organization
YouthLink has a long history of providing innovative services for Toronto’s vulnerable youth. The agency was started in 1914 by the wife of a judge in the Juvenile Court who was touched by circumstance of young teens before the courts. So began a volunteer mentoring service incorporated as the Big Sister Association. In 1953, the Big Sisters purchased a building on Huntley Street in downtown Toronto and opened the Big Sister Counselling Service for girls. In the 1960s, the Big Sisters purchased several homes to serve as transitional housing for youth. In 1974, the agency was renamed Huntley Youth Services, opening its doors to both male and female clients and became YouthLink in 1989. Our downtown drop-in centre for homeless youth opened in 1980 and three years later opened a Scarborough branch office. In 2001, YouthLink partnered with several agencies to establish the North West Scarborough Youth Centre. Recognizing the growing needs in Scarborough, YouthLink sold the Huntley Street office in 2003 and relocated our main office to Warden Avenue near St. Clair Avenue East.
YouthLink is a United Way member agency and has been actively involved in Toronto’s Strong Neighbourhoods Initiative.
Accolades and Accomplishments
YouthLink has a strong “on-the-ground” presence in Scarborough which was acknowledged by the United Way and the City in implementing the 2005 Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force. We were the only agency asked to take the lead in 2 priority neighbourhoods.
Youth Councils initiated by YouthLink have successfully lobbied for improved programming facilities including the Dorset Park multi-sport complex and the Scarborough Village Youth Lounge which was opened by Mayor David Miller in 2008. The Scarborough Village Youth Council won “2009 Youth Council of the Year”.
Youthlink staff have been recognized individually; awards include City of Toronto “2009 Youth Outreach Worker of the Year”and “2008 Community Outreach Worker of the Year - Dorset Park”.
In 2009, Pathways To Education Canada selected YouthLink to deliver their nationally acclaimed program in Scarborough Village, helping youth at risk to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education.
Many of our services are unique in Scarborough, such as our Walk-In Counselling Service for youth and families, Parenting Skills program for parents of teens, family support for youth with intellectual disability and our support/advocacy group for LGBT youth. We are proud to deliver these accessible mental health services right in the community.
Our services range from prevention to early intervention and treatment and are clustered around 3 objectives:
1) Offering Individual and Family Support
- walk-in counselling for individuals and families - experienced therapists help youth explore and manage difficult issues at home, school or personal life
- residential care - A specialized 12 bed group home combining treatment for mental health disorders with life skills programs to prepare young women to live independently
- affordable housing - 4 houses providing safe, affordable housing where young people receive mentoring to prepare them for independent living
- group support in schools for students whose social behaviour is interfering with their academic success. participants learn positive social skills and anger management
2) Promoting a Positive Family Environment
- Positive Parenting Program - provides evidence-based Triple P Parenting Groups and community support for parents struggling with challenging adolescents and family conflict
- Wrap-Around Services - to assist youth who are involved with Child Welfare Services to remain within the family home or to return home as soon as possible.
- Youth with Intellectual Disability - support for youth and families to help transition successfully through adolescence and prepare for independent living
3) Engaging youth in priority communities
YouthLink offers programs in 3 Scarborough neighbourhoods that have been designated for priority community investment. Our goal is provide support and opportunities for youth who are at a disadvantage due to social circumstances so they can achieve their potential for a positive future.
Steeles-L'Amoreux - the North West Scarborough Youth Centre at Birchmount and Finch provides a drop-in, homework support, leadership development, recreation activities, Youth Council and special programs for girls.
Scarborough Village - we offer the national award-winning Pathways to Education program for local youth entering Grade 9 to help them complete high school successfully and continue at the post-secondary level. We also coordinate a variety of youth programming at the local community recreation centre. We have 2 youth outreach workers who are actively reaching out to marginalized young people in the area to offer support.
Kennedy Park/Eglinton East - a range of youth programs are offered at 400-410 McCowan that build skills and develop leadership; we support a Youth Action Team that organizes community initiatives such as clean-ups, youth-police forums and youth volunteerism. We also have 2 youth outreach workers who are actively reaching out to marginalized young people in the area to offer support.
Inner City Centre - Our Queen West Centre provides street-involved and homeless youth with basic support, crisis counseling, health care and help with legal, employment and housing issues. We also offer Youth Skills Zone, a 10 week computer and life skills employment preparation program.
The North West Scarborough Youth Centre is located at Finch and Birchmount in the south east part of Steeles-L’Amoreaux, Scarborough's largest priority neighbourhood. The Centre offers programs for youth ages 12-17 years old particularly those living in nearby housing complexes including Glendower, Chester Le, Silver Springs and Wayside. The programs help to develop leadership and social skills, build self esteem and support academic success with homework clubs and tutoring programs. Given the diverse cultural and economic backgrounds of youth in the area, the centre helps build positive relationships between these different groups.
Over 400 youth participate annually in the programs which include both an arts and sports focus, along with Girls Group and leadership programs. The Centre also offers a drop-in, sexual health clinic and help to find employment. It was established in 2001 by several community service agencies and trusteed by YouthLink. In 2008, we assumed full responsibility for the Centre as part of our youth engagement strategy in priority neighbourhoods.
Funding and Program Partners
Program partners include Agincourt Community Services Association, Toronto’s Parks, Forestry & Recreation Dept, Steeles-L’Amoreaux Youth Empowerment Network, Toronto Public Health, West Scarborough Neighborhood Community Centre and Toronto Public Library.
The United Way and the City of Toronto provide annualized funding with balance of funding provided by project grants.
Youth being bullied, facing peer pressure, stressed out, depressed, in unhealthy relationships, experiencing violence, unable to join in with their peers in recreation opportunities, feeling isolated, left out and unaware of their potential. These are the challenges facing youth that come to the North West Scarborough Youth Centre for support.
Every year, the Centre provides over 400 youth with the skills and guidance they need to cope with and overcome these challenges. Through our programs, youth have increased their social and leadership skills, formed important relationships with positive role models and peers, accessed recreation, improved their self-esteem and confidence, Our staff help them tap into community resources and opportunities that meet their individual needs. At the Centre, youth find a place to belong and support to achieve their potential.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
In 2005, the City’s Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force recommended the designation of 13 areas of the city that faced particular economic and social challenges (low income, high levels of unemployment, high numbers of recent immigrants, etc.) for particular attention and investment. (pg 73, Vital Signs)
The North West Scarborough Youth Centre is located in one of these designated areas. Youth living in these “poor” neighbourhoods often feel stigmatized and excluded because of where they live and are at a severe social disadvantage due to inadequate housing, unsafe neighbourhoods, poor public transit, lack of community services and recreational programs, and limited employment opportunities.
They are aware of their disadvantage and many have lost hope for a prosperous future. Faced with easy access to drugs, gangs and guns, they are at great risk for leaving school and becoming involved in violent activities. High drop-out rates are over 30% in some areas, and prostitution among high school students in on the rise.
YouthLink is helping to turn this around through initiatives such as the North West Scarborough Youth Centre that provide support, guidance and opportunities to help these young people overcome barriers and achieve their potential for a positive future.
On November 10, 2010, I entered a strange new room, not knowing what to expect. Little did I know that in about eight months, I’d be leaving the very same room with so many new friends, as well as the required expertise to incorporate graphic design into my everyday life. Every week the program instructors gave me challenging assignments that would test my creativity, ability to use Photoshop, and ability to meet deadlines. The instructors also guided me along the way. They were always there to help and critique my work, suggesting ways I could improve and teaching me the inner workings of Photoshop. All in all, this was an unforgettable experience, and I know I’ll never forget the people I’ve met, or the things I’ve learned. Thank you so much NWSYC for the amazing opportunity.
Activities a donation will support
Investment in the North West Scarborough Youth Centre will allow us to maintain our existing services and introduce new arts, digital media and recreation programs proven to engage young people at risk. Your donation will help us to increase the number of youth we serve, particularly those from low-income housing developments where there are high numbers of youth and inadequate services. Additional resources will also allow us to expand our volunteer base to increase our capacity and increase our advocacy among stake-holders for increased investment in opportunities for youth.
The North West Scarborough Youth Centre helps youth at risk to imagine and achieve a brighter future. Youth growing up in poverty in the inner suburbs of North West Scarborough are at a severe social disadvantage due to inadequate housing, unsafe neighbourhoods, poor public transit, lack of community services and recreational programs, and limited employment opportunities.
Youth living in these “poor” neighbourhoods often feel stigmatized and excluded because of where they live. They are aware of their disadvantage and many have lost hope for a prosperous future. Many have easy access to drugs, gangs and guns, and are at great risk for leaving school and becoming involved in violent activities. High drop-out rates are over 30% in some areas, and prostitution among high school students in on the rise.
Your investment will help us to offer these youth a different vision for their future – one where they are productive, contributing members in their community – and to provide the support, guidance and opportunities they need to achieve their goals. Your donation will help to bring about positive change that lasts a lifetime.