A Toronto Transformation

Tokens 4 Change


One of the most difficult things for me in adjusting to life in the city has been getting used to frequent requests from panhandlers and, especially in chillier weather, the heartbreaking sight of someone curled up to sleep on a subway grate for warmth.

Sometimes I can spare some change, sometimes I’ll offer up a granola bar or an apple, but I always have the distinctly futile feeling of putting a bandaid on a volcano.

A 2004 investigation into the issue of youth homelessness in Canada conducted by CBC news program, The Fifth Estate, found that while truly accurate numbers are impossible to come by, the National Homelessness Initiative estimates that,

“200,000 Canadians are homeless at some point during any given year, of which about one third are youth (25 years and under) – or about 50,000 to 66,000. On any given night, this means approximately 33,000 Canadians are homeless, of which about 8,333 to 11,000 are youth…In Toronto, a good estimate suggests there are at least 10,000 different youth who are homeless at one point on any given year – and anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 on a given night.”

It’s so disheartening and disturbing to think of that many people, and kids in particular who have no place to come home to at the end of the day. It makes me feel so extremely lucky and grateful to have grown up in a loving, safe and nurturing environment. One little twist of fate and I could easily have been one of the 1,500 to 2,000.

That’s why I’m very happy to volunteer for Tokens 4 Change, a fantastic annual one-day fundraiser with a brilliantly simple concept to help turn these statistics around.

Tokens for Change works with Youth Without Shelter to collect change, and, you guessed it, tokens, to help support the shelter and, in particular, to help the young people who use its services travel to the places they need to be (school, work, doctor’s appointments) to put them on a path to a better future.

This Friday February 8th, a fantastic group of caring high school students  (along with some, ahem, slightly older adult volunteer/supervisor-types) will take to Toronto’s subway stations. A lot of the kids involved will be putting their talents to good use, busking to help entice commuters to give generously.

I will once again lean heavily on my giant smile and ability to get my point across loudly and concisely as well as the innate goodness and generosity of others. So if you happen to run into any of us this Friday, please consider donating your change. You know it’s just weighing your purse down, which is probably giving you shoulder problems anyway.

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