As you may have heard, our Evergreen Health Centre serving street-involved youth is expanding!
If you aren’t yet familiar, YSM’s Evergreen Centre is a safe space for unstably housed and street-involved youth between the ages of 16 and 24. Each year, Evergreen opens its doors to thousands of youth who freely access a wide variety of support programs designed to move them from crisis to stability. One of the most vital components of Evergreen’s services is barrier-free comprehensive health and dental care.
Currently, we have over 80 healthcare professionals who generously volunteer their time and skills, allowing us to provide health and dental care for free to vulnerable youth. One of our incredible healthcare volunteers is Dr. Kathleen Schenk, who has donated her time to our Evergreen Health Centre for 15 years.
Dr. Kathleen Schenk is a general dentist in Toronto who did her training at the University of Toronto. After a year of residency at Toronto Western Hospital, she moved into private practice here in the city. Over the course of her career she’s come to know firsthand the difficulty people – especially street-involved youth – have in accessing dental treatment.
In the summer, Dr. Schenk spoke about the critical need for more health care services for street-involved youth during a webinar about our Evergreen Health Centre expansion.
“I’m a dentist who’s come to know firsthand the difficulty people have in accessing dental treatment, both in my private practice and while volunteering at Evergreen . . . I’m sure we can all agree that for young people to develop fully, their immediate basic needs, including mental and physical health, must be addressed first. That would be true for all, but that’s especially so for members who are experiencing homelessness.”
Barriers to obtaining proper health
During her talk, Dr. Schenk described five (5) key barriers street-involved youth face when it comes to obtaining proper health:
Restricted nutritional choices
Limited access to quality rest
Shared or unsanitary living conditions
Lack of consistent trusted healthcare provider relationships
Lack of healthcare documentation (like health cards)
“Our city’s primary healthcare system is under tremendous pressure. Emergency rooms are strained, as hospitals cope with overcrowding and hallway medicine . . . caused in part by a lack of primary care available to vulnerable populations, like those served at our Evergreen Health Centre.”
Dr. Schenk explains, “I’m grateful to see YSM prioritizing health and dental services as a vital part of its wrap-around model of care. By removing the physical issues and barriers vulnerable youth face, you’re able to enable progress in other aspects of their lives.”
“I recall a young woman who was rescued from the sex trade. When I first saw her, she was fearful, closed, uncommunicative. I was privileged to see her a few more times and experienced her growth, trust and confidence from the personal interactions she’s had at the Evergreen Health Centre and the restoration of her smile.”
“When you consider the conditions under which such vulnerable youth are trying to survive, the need for accessible health and dental care is certainly clear.”
We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Kathleen Schenk and our many volunteer healthcare professionals for their dedication, time and care for Evergreen youth. They truly are real life heroes.
For our 125th anniversary we’re inviting the city of Toronto to GIVE 6IX to “the Six” in any way, from anywhere, to help change the lives of neighbours struggling with poverty . . .
By volunteering your time, you can provide vital services like health and dental care to vulnerable youth.
What’s your 6IX? Learn more and get inspired at ysm.ca/GIVE6IX.