360Kids: Surrounding Kids with Care
A GenNext Community Tour
On August 24, United Way Toronto and York Region (UWTYR) in partnership with 360°Kids held a GenNext tour at the 360°Kids home base in Richmond Hill. Lead by Sascha Ellis, Manager of Housing Programs at 360°Kids, the tour provided an in-depth look at the hub’s facilities and programs.
360°Kids is a youth hub dedicated to supporting at-risk and homeless youth in York Region by providing a wide range of programs and support to youth in the area. Previously known as Pathways for Children, Youth and Families of York Region Inc., the organization began as two separate agencies: the Markham Neighbourhood Support Centre and Youth Housing Markham. The two agencies amalgamated in 1998 forming Pathways for Children which was rebranded in 2013 to become 360°Kids.
The Richmond Hill hub, opened in March 2016, is completely unlike what many assume a shelter would look like. With modern infrastructure and amenities made specifically with youth in mind, it’s obvious that the organization worked hard to create a building that offered respect and dignity to the people it supports.
“It’s not just about space, it’s about a home. It’s about feeling that you’re part of something,” said Ellis.
In the hub, you’ll find a gym, pool and foosball tables, a basketball court, a music studio, a dining area where two hot meals are served every day, a kitchenette, on site laundry machines, and a health center offering EMS and mental health service once a week along with monthly chiropractic and dental care at no cost.
The hub also facilitates a myriad of programming to support and assist their youth such as music lessons, dog therapy provided by St. John’s ambulance, and emotional literacy sessions run through the John Howard Society H.Y.P.E program. Beyond these, 360°Kids also runs many broader programs that work to assist youth with employment, education, counselling, and housing.
Clovis Grant, Chief Executive Officer at 360°Kids, mentioned near the end of the tour the importance of partnership to the organization’s ability to provide these programs. Speaking specifically about the partnership with UWTYR, Grant said,
“to be able to have dollars so that when we see a need, we can respond to those needs is really, really important. Some of the government funds are very specific to serve programs, but that’s not the way young people are. [United Way is] with us and we see a need, and we need to be able to be flexible and nimble to be able to adjust for it.”
As previously reported, despite growing rates of poverty and homelessness in York Region, many people underestimate the needs of struggling residents due to the affluent appearance of the region and the prevalence of “hidden homelessness”.
“When we think about York Region, we think high education, and we think about the high property value, the million dollar homes. A lot of our residents here in the community, they’re very surprised to learn that homelessness even exists within their neighbourhood,” said Asare Kester-Akrofi, GenNext Cabinet member and Executive Coordinator at the City of Markham.
According the the 360°Kids website, experts estimate that at least 300 to 500 youth between the ages of 13 and 24 are homeless and another 32,000 local children are living in low-income households that are just one event away from being homeless.
“It’s really important for us to raise awareness of what we do,” said Grant. “Because communities needs to be aware that that’s our thing and that needs exist in our community, that we need to find ways to work together. We do great work but we cannot do it all, and you, and in the broader community, as we go out and talk about your involvement, and the fact that we exist, and our organizations exist. It’s really important to us, because by no means, can we address all the needs of young people in every way.”