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Doctor give a check up to a youth. GIVE 6IX logo in bottom left.

GIVE 6IX: Overcoming the Health Barrier

Written by Angie Peters, President & CEO of YSM

What’s your favourite meal? For me it’s definitely a chicken cacciatore I make in my Instant Pot these days. For many, simply finding something – anything – to put on the table each day is a struggle.

Food is connected to health. Access to healthy food is connected to income. Lack of healthy food impacts every aspect of our lives and wellbeing.

Food insecurity, included in the Social Determinants of Health (1), is one of nine key factors recognized by the UN, WHO, and most global nations, as contributing to poverty. Our physical health plays a vital role in our overall wellbeing and without it, well, the statistics speak for themselves


  • The average life expectancy of someone experiencing homelessness in Canada is 39 years, half the national average (2).
  • Youth experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of respiratory problems, dental disease, infections, and foot problems resulting from wet, cold, and exposed extremities (3). 
  • Investment in community health centres has a 234% return on investment by diverting people from the ER and providing more cost effective services (4).

Health, or lack thereof, is a major barrier to overcoming poverty.

How can we help?

We can do what donors, volunteers and staff did for Olivia* who came to YSM when she was expecting her first child.

Struggling with high rent, Olivia was already skipping meals. She worried for the health of her unborn child and about the added costs once her little one arrived. Olivia didn’t have the resources she needed to be healthy, so she asked for help. For her, community looked like:

  • Neighbours knitting caps, sweaters and blankets for her new baby
  • Donations of money for Staff to support Olivia and provide children’s clothing and a stroller;
  • Companies giving large volumes of formula and diapers
  • Volunteer medical professionals at our Health Centre caring for her and her child
  • Donations of gift cards and food to help Olivia supplement the groceries and supplies she can afford
  • Her community believing in her enough so that she started training to become a Personal Support Worker.

Today, Olivia is completing her qualifications and is on her way to overcoming poverty because people in her community took action and gave of their time, talent and gifts . . . This is the power of community and the solution to ending chronic poverty.

Do you see yourself in this story? If so, I invite you to join us and take action! Your action, whatever it is, can impact the life of someone in your community, helping them find health and hope for their future.

Mother playing with child


Participate in GIVE 6IX. Be inspired! Get creative! And remember that above all, not only is change possible but, you and I, working together, are in fact the solution.

Continue your GIVE 6IX learning journey:

Further reading: GIVE 6IX: Bystanders No More, Overcoming the Affordable Daycare Shortage, Overcoming the Barrier of Isolation and Overcoming Barriers to Employment. Subscribe below to get the next article directly to your inbox.

Learn more about GIVE 6IX at

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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  1. World Health Organization. Social Determinants of Health
  2.   Trypuc and Robinson. Homeless in Canada: A Funder’s Primer in Understanding the Tragedy on Canada’s Streets. Charity Intelligence Canada, October 2009. P8. 
  3.   Elliott, April. Meeting the Health Care Needs of Street-Involved Youth. Canadian Pediatric Society, June 2013. 
  4.   2017 Ontario Budget Submission. Ontario Oral Health Alliance, Dec 8, 2016. Pg4.