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GIVE 6IX: Overcoming Barriers to Housing

Written by Angie Peters, President & CEO of YSM

Imagine not having a safe place to rest your head or to call home. Without a stable home, how would you even think about getting to work in the morning or focusing on your schoolwork in order to further your education and employment prospects?

For thousands of families in Toronto, lack of affordable, stable and safe housing forces parents and guardians to make impossible choices every day as they struggle to provide food, shelter and safe homes for their families.


Accessible housing in Toronto is clearly in crisis, and yet we continually see much new housing being built for people of financial means. There have been almost no new affordable housing builds in the City of Toronto for decades, while the population requiring affordable housing continues to grow dramatically.

Our neighbours who are precariously housed or experiencing homelessness are living in survival mode, focusing on finding shelter and where they can sleep, how to avoid getting robbed or beaten and finding something to eat. They understandably have no energy or resources left for education or finding a job and therefore no hope for things to improve.

With a safe home, one can sleep. With rest, one can envision and work towards a better future.


  • Only 2% of the 102,000 new homes added in the GTA from 2016-2019 were classified as affordable (1).
  • Subsidized housing applicants can expect to wait 7-12 years in Toronto (2). There were over 110,000 households on the waitlist in Toronto in 2019 (3).
  • Shelters are operating at capacity and our city has an estimated 2,000 neighbours living in tent encampments (4).
  • Food Bank recipients in Toronto spend 74% of their monthly income on rent and utilities leaving very little for them to procure other essentials like food, clothing, transit, healthcare or medicine (5).
tent on a city street


Jeremiah’s* ambition, perseverance and positive attitude are evident to everyone who meets him. Even so, the challenges of finding affordable housing in Toronto during a pandemic was something he struggled with on his own.

All landlords saw in him was the toll poverty had taken on his teeth, his criminal record, and lack of a full-time job. In his search, Jeremiah connected with a YSM Bridges Care Manager who supported and advocated for him.

After visits to more than 50 apartments, he finally found a safe place to live. Having a home finally gave him the energy to secure employment as he works toward his life goals. Jeremiah continues to bring joy to those around him in his work and through his continued visits to YSM for workshops, groceries and meals. He’s enthusiastic about his future and grateful to YSM staff who he says “truly care”.


Advocate by sending letters to your government representatives about these, and other, issues affecting neighbours struggling with poverty. See our templates and tips here.

Share what you learn with your community and invite them to learn along with you.

If you own one or more rental properties, rent at Rent Geared to Income (RGI) rates and work with a local agency to invite a neighbour into one of your units so they can afford key essentials after paying rent.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Continue your GIVE 6IX learning journey:

Further reading: GIVE 6IX: Bystanders No MoreOvercoming the Health Barrier and Overcoming the Affordable Day Care Shortage

Learn more about GIVE 6IX at

*Name and photo changed to protect privacy.

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