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.

City announces $4M donation for downtown home for young moms

A building project in downtown London is set to receive $4-million from the city to fund the construction of affordable housing units for struggling young moms and families.

On Monday, Mayor-elect and current Deputy Mayor Josh Morgan announced that the funds, from the City of London's Housing Development Corporation, are being given to Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), for its Joan's Place apartment development on the corner of York and Richmond streets. He was joined by YOU CEO Steve Cordes and London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.

"The City of London is proud to invest in this critical project for London's most vulnerable young people," Morgan said on Monday. "At a time when our community is experiencing a homelessness crisis, projects like this go a long way to ensuring more safe spaces for local youth, and access to the supports young families need to thrive."

The anticipated 55,000 square foot building, named after Ontario's first female solicitor general and former London politician Joan Smith, will feature 35 apartment units and will be located just across the street from YOU and the YOU Made It Café.

Once completed, the building will include a wellness hub, offering a range of services including primary care and mental health support, addiction services, education, and employment training services. The dwelling is being created to help youth, young mothers/moms-to-be experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, receive access to a safe and enriching environment.

Fragiskatos said this project is something the city needs.

"The remarkable work Youth Opportunities Unlimited has done in our city gives confidence to Londoners about why this project will make a real difference in the lives of youth" said Fragiskatos. "And the fact that it pays tribute to the immense contributions of Joan Smith makes today even more special."

To date, Joan's Place has received $10.4-million from donors, including a $1-million donation from Lynne Cram and the Smith Family, which inspired the projects namesake.

"The donations received to date, including the ongoing matching gift program, have been the driving force in making Joan’s Place a reality," said Cordes. "We could not have gotten to this major milestone without the generous support of our community, including individuals, corporations and charitable foundations."

According to YOU, the centre serves around 3,600 youth across London-Middlesex annually. Approximately 2,600 of those access emergency shelter in London. Joan's Place will also be capable of serving over 200 people daily. The project is slated to be completed in the next 24 months.

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