Artists rendering of the Joan Smith Building for Youth courtesy of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Artists rendering of the Joan Smith Building for Youth courtesy of Youth Opportunities Unlimited.

Anonymous donor puts up $1.5M matching gift for homeless youth

Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) has announced an anonymous donor will match up to $1.5-million in donations aimed at supporting at-risk youth, young mothers and moms-to-be.

The commitment was announced by YOU on Giving Tuesday, a global movement that follows the American Thanksgiving weekend, often touted as a global day for generosity while marking the official start of the holiday season. The boost in funds is aimed at supporting the ongoing construction of Joan's Place, a downtown apartment project that will provide safe and affordable housing for young moms in need.

The gift represents a final push for the 39-year-old organization to complete the capital campaign and begin construction sometime in 2022.

In partnership with a number of local organizations including the Thames Valley District School Board, Canadian Mental Health Association and Middlesex-London Health Unit, Joan's Place will offer 39 units of affordable housing as well as various wellness supports. The space totals 55,000 square feet and is expected to serve approximately 200 people a day.

"At YOU, we believe that it takes more than a roof or affordable rent to change a life," said Executive Director, Steve Cordes. "We combine a housing first model with critical youth supports and skill development opportunities with the aim of helping young people escape the cycle of homelessness while creating new futures for themselves and their young families."

Joan's Place is named after Joan Smith, whose family provided a $1-million donation in honour of their mother. Smith was a London City Councillor, an MPP and Ontario's first female Solicitor General, where she advocated for social change and altered legislation on gay rights and police conduct.

Cordes said he feels hopeful that the $1.5 million matching fund will inspire Londoners interested in ending youth homelessness to come forward.

"Thanks to the generosity of our community, we are able to be there for young people at the most vulnerable time of their lives," said Cordes. "What we do together allows our youth to be just that, young people learning, gaining experience, and growing."

More information about Joan's Place and how to donate can be found on

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