– By Nea Maaty –
In the Moss Park community, at 257 Dundas Street, you will find a colourful rainbow accented building that the Friends of Ruby call “Home.” The Friends of Ruby Home was designed for LGBTQI2S youth between the ages of 16 to 29 years who are in need of transitional housing and support.
The charity (formerly Egale Youth Services), was founded in 2014 by Egale Canada to meet the needs of LGBTQI2S youth in the Greater Toronto Area. LGBTQI2S refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Two-Spirited. The catalyst for providing the home was Egale’s “Not under my roof” study that shone a light on the crisis of LGBTQI2S youth homelessness due to disproportionately high rates of family rejection, violence and trauma.
“Not under my roof” is a sentence that many LGBTQI2S youth hear at a sensitive age, growing up with their families. It’s a repetitive message of rejection, harassment, and unacceptance they have to deal with while exploring their identities. According to Lucy Gallo, the Director of Youth Services and Housing, the Friends of Ruby Home is a powerful place that aims to assist young people overcome the traumas and rejection they have experienced in their lives, as well as, in some cases, the violence they endured.
The Friends of Ruby Home is inspiring at many levels, not only in the design but also in the name.
“A few years back, there was a young person who had many traumas and many struggles,” say’s Gallo. “Ruby used to be a regular visitor to the space and this person would only connect with Ruby. This person wasn’t engaging or connecting with any other activities or youth,” explained Gallo. Only Ruby, the name of the Golden Retriever that would visit the house, could break the ice with her. Working with the gentle dog, the staff was able to build a bridge between this young person and the rest of the youth. Ruby then became a part of the support team and that’s how they got the name.
The Friends of Ruby Home is unique among services to LGBTQI2 youth because it offers mental health and housing services, instead of just mental health support.
Unfortunately, there are many young people from the LGBTQI2 group that have suicidal thoughts due to the high rates of family rejection and the traumas they face. In addition, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the LGTBQI2S community have been particularly affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. By offering counselling services, and a warm supportive home environment, the Friends of Ruby Home enables young people to find themselves and find meaning in their lives again.
The acquisition, design and construction of the Friends of Ruby Home came to life through the sponsorship of the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Daniels Corporation and Yabu Pushelberg.
This partnership reminds us that it takes a village to raise a home!
Nea Maaty is a staff journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre ~a partnership with The Corner