Scarborough youth shelter proves positive

The Second Base Youth Shelter in Scarborough is celebrating its 16th anniversary this month.

As part of the celebration, the shelter opened its doors to the community to share points of pride.

“One of the thing that separates this place is our access to education.  We have a huge emphasis for education,” said executive director Paul Taylor.

Staff were excited about the night’s festivities, which were to include performances, a silent auction, and the sale of products created by the youth.

Perhaps Second Base’s most famous initiative, though, is its catering service.

“We’ve catered for the mayor and the minister of education,” said Taylor. “Since then it’s been an absolute whirlwind.”

Unlike many nonprofit initiatives, the catering actually makes money which is used to further programs. That success has inspired other shelters to attempt to replicate their initiative.

Education manager Fernelle Edmund reflected on her first time coming to the shelter.

“I got here and I was blown away. At first I was uncomfortable and nervous. All of the stereotypes started rushing to my mind , like, oh my gosh, am I going to get shot, am I going to get stabbed?”

It was after meeting with Taylor that her perspective changed.

“(Taylor) challenged me to reevaluate my assumptions on what a shelter was…why am I treating this like it’s a shelter building when this is their home? It’s a home.”

The shelter has since dedicated itself to changing similar assumptions within the Scarborough community.

“There are so many reasons why people end up in shelters. It can be sexual abuse, substance abuse, physical abuse, domestic abuse,” said Edmund.

“I’m not here to save them, they don’t need to be saved — they just need someone that respects them and will listen to them and care about them and allow them the opportunity to speak and express themselves in a positive, productive way.”

Some of the youth that drop in are homeless, and some are just looking for support.

“We’re the only shelter that services the east end of the city from Victoria Park to Durham,” said Edmund.

Second Base is also launching a new program based on cooking apprenticeship in partnership with George Brown College and funded by the Ontario Government.

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