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Image of youth receiving medical care through YSM Evergreen Centre for Street-Involved Youth

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 these days in my Instant Pot. For many, simply finding something – anything – to put on the table each day is a struggle.

Did you know?

Access to healthy food is connected to income. Lack of healthy food impacts every aspect of our lives and wellbeing. Food insecurity is one of 9 key factors recognized by the UN, WHO, and most nations as contributing to poverty (1). 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).
What can we do? 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 generational poverty.

Mother playing with child


Do you see yourself in this story? If so, I invite you to join us by donating to supply a healthy meal for a neighbour who needs it. Your action will impact the life of someone in your community, helping them find health and hope for their future.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

  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.