Covenant House is a welcoming, safe and inclusive space for all youth. We firmly believe that everyone that shows up at our doors deserves unconditional love and absolute respect.

“Going into the shelter system in and of itself is traumatizing and oftentimes being who you are is the reason you are in the shelter system,” said Sanaya Dhabhar who works in our drop-in centre. “As service providers, we want to make sure we’re cultivating an environment that is welcoming and supportive of all young people.”

Currently, of the population we serve, approximately 25 per cent identify as 2SLGBTQAI+. Sanaya notes that more and more youth in this community are showing up at our drop-in centre seeking our care, support, food, and a safe place to rest.

In the Benskids health centre, manager Elisa Simpson has also noted the rising numbers of youth identifying as trans or non-binary seeking care in the clinic. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, 6.6 per cent of youth identified in this way. By 2021-2022 fiscal year, that number had risen to 11.5 per cent.

With June being Pride month, staff planned a series of events and activities inside and outside the house.  From organizing button making activities, movie Mondays, to mentorship opportunities and a Pride party for youth and staff, the house was alive with fun and celebration.

This commitment spans well beyond Pride month and into everyday practice. Whether it’s ensuring that a youth’s name and pronouns are used accurately or offering gender-specialized care in our health clinic our goal is to create an inclusive community for all.


It's a message staff are looking forward to sharing at the city’s Pride festivities, where Covenant House will have a booth set up at the intersection of Church and McGill Streets to share information about our programs and services.

“It’s a great chance to provide a bit of outreach about what we do at Covenant House and an opportunity for people to come up and learn more,” says Laurie Hamilton-Houston, residential manager of Covenant House’s shelter program who has worked at Covenant House for 33 years.

To Laurie and other queer-identifying staff at Covenant House, a presence there is a great chance to educate the public about the agency’s inclusive work.

Covenant House is one of the only youth shelters in the city that has a long-running 2SLGBTQIA+ youth group, Laurie says. When residential youth worker Lillian Gong started working with the youth group last year, only three youth would regularly attend. Now the group gets upwards of 10 people showing up to this monthly gathering, which is just a safe space to hang out, watch movies and talk. They also run regular outings which are very well attended, Lillian says.

“I always link things back to our mission, which is unconditional love and absolute respect. Making sure that we provide a welcoming space for everyone that shows up at our doors is so important along with providing support through that lens. Our mission is a good one.”