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Civic Impact

Egale launches new drop-in meal program for queer youth in crisis

When Egale Canada Human Rights Trust launched itsYouth OUTreach last spring, the organization was setting out to help LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and Two-Spirited) young people having a housing crisis.

With its new Out in the Kitchen program, the not-for-profit wants to make sure its target group has at least one free healthy, hot meal each week. The partnership with CRC at 40 Oak, which is providing the food and the food-safety skills, will also help create a feeling of community as the youth come together for a shared meal.

“We’d like everyone to participate in preparing the meal, but we also know there will be folks who will come who are just interested in the hot meal and won’t be interested in the cooking. That’s an option, but the goal is getting as many people involved in the cooking and the learning experiences as possible,” says T Thomason, Egale’s youth outreach coordinator.

Thomason expects between 10 and 20 young people for the inaugural meal. “You don’t see much diversity of food at drop-in meals so we’re hoping to offer a range of options,” they say, which includes vegetarian meals.
do. It’s not a program that you attend, it’s a program that you create,” says Thomason.

The biggest challenge was creating a program that reflected what the young people themselves wanted to see. “We wanted to make sure we create a space where the youth have a lot of choices, where they have a say and it’s spearheaded by their interests—what they want to learn and and do. It’s not a program that you attend, it’s a program that you create,” says Thomason.

LGBTQ2S youth account for as much as 21 per cent of Toronto youth who find themselves homeless. That’s at least in part because coming out as queer—or being found out to to queer—can trigger major family conflicts. Many report feeling uncomfortable accessing the city’s mainstream housing services. Youth OUTreach can provide housing and other crisis support, as well referrals to safe and affirming community, legal, health and employment services.

Out in the Kitchen takes place every Tuesday evening at 40 Oak Street, from 5pm to 8pm.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: T Thomason
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