After another big argument with his parents, Tariq* was ready to pack his bags. He didn’t have anywhere else to stay, but he felt he couldn’t return home.

It was this situation that led Tariq to his school social worker’s office who, before calling around to find shelter space, reached out to Covenant House Toronto’s Youth Reconnect program.

Tariq, his social worker and a Youth Reconnect worker met at the school to talk through the challenges he was having at home. The Youth Reconnect worker also engaged a family counsellor to see if Tariq was interested in receiving support to resolve the conflict with his family.

Tariq didn’t return home that night, but with support from Covenant House he found a safe place to stay. And he continued to work with Youth Reconnect, the family counsellor and his family to address the challenges that were happening at home.

“Ultimately, it was this intervention that helped Tariq from becoming homeless,” says Youth Reconnect program supervisor Rachel George. “It took a few months of ongoing effort, but over time Tariq said he wanted to continue living at home with his family.”

By referring young people to local programs and supports, Youth Reconnect helps them stay near family, school and friends. These community connections and others – like recreational sports, youth hubs, family doctors, and therapists – are important factors in preventing homelessness and creating lasting stability.

“If youth feel that they’re really and truly seen, they will not feel the need to go anywhere but onwards to a bright future,” Rachel says. “At the end of the day, youth really need to feel like they belong.”

Launched in 2021 as a pilot program, Youth Reconnect is a referral service that helps young people at risk of becoming homeless to find safer alternatives to sleeping on the street or entering the overcapacity shelter system.

It has been a huge success in helping young people to move forward with stability and hope. In the last year:

· 91% of Youth Reconnect participants were prevented from becoming homeless.

· 44% of Youth Reconnect participants reported an improvement in family relationships since being involved with the program.

· 47% of Youth Reconnect participants reported feeling more connected to their community.

*To protect this youth’s identity, we have changed their name and used a stock photo.