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.

$100K donation will add learning space to downtown home for young moms

A downtown affordable housing project for youth and young mothers living in poverty has received a $100,000 boost.

Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) announced the six-figure donation from London lawyer Barbara Legate and her partner, psychologist Dr. David Wolfe, and their family at its annual breakfast fundraiser Thursday morning. The money will be used to create a children's learning space at Joan’s Place, a YOU project that will see three Richmond Street buildings renovated into low rent units for expecting and new moms and young people at risk for homelessness.

"We know safety and security at a young age can contribute greatly to positive futures,” said Legate. “We want to help ensure that more young Londoners can have the opportunity to feel welcome, peaceful, safe and supported so that they can escape the cycle of homelessness and create new futures for themselves and their young families.”

The aim of the learning space is to develop an area within the housing development where moms and babies can bond, play, learn and develop together and feel safe and supported, the agency said.

YOU has been fundraising for the proposed downtown development since 2017. It is being named after the late Joan Smith, Ontario’s first female solicitor general and mother of seven. The Smith family has given $1 million toward the project.

YOU CEO Steve Cordes noted the latest donation is instrumental as the fundraising campaign enters its final push before  construction  begins on the 55,000 square foot building which will feature 39 affordable housing units and a youth wellness hub.

"At YOU, we believe that it takes more than a roof and affordable rent to change a life,” said Cordes. “This generous gift by the Legate-Wolfe Family will help bring to life the wraparound support that is at the heart of our Joan's Place vision - a safe place where youth and babies feel supported and embraced so they can thrive, in this generation and the next.”

The agency is still working to match a $1.5 million anonymous donation that was made last November and is contingent on the large sum being matched by other donors.

It is hoped construction will get underway later this year.

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