October 2, 2013
TORONTO–Citing pressing needs for more and different space for its work, a favourable real estate market, and a buyer willing to allow time for a smooth transition, The Yonge Street Mission (YSM) has decided to sell its namesake property at 381 Yonge Street in Toronto, just south of Gerrard Street.
The purchaser, a private equity real estate company, has agreed to a closing date of September 2016, to allow YSM to complete detailed planning for its ongoing outreach and ministry to the street-involved youth currently served from the Yonge Street location. The sale price remains undisclosed.
Although just one of six YSM program locations, the 381 Yonge Street site is the most visible and best known, having been in continuous use to serve the poor of Toronto since 1904.
For more than a century its programs have changed with the times and the most pressing needs. In the 1930s, lines formed for blocks down Yonge Street as YSM served sandwiches and soup to thousands. Every year for decades hundreds of evangelistic services were held in its auditorium and from there, out on the streets of Toronto.
During the past three decades, the site has been known as Evergreen, and focused on youth for whom street life and street culture is the dominant force in their lives. A frequent location for teams of volunteers from churches, business and professional groups, the location hosts programs focused on educational completion, employment readiness, housing searches and a very busy medical clinic.
In a statement Board Chair Judy Hunter said the decision to sell is shaped by the desire to see YSM do more with the street-involved youth that are a key priority for the Mission.
“The Board of Directors determined that fulfilling our vision to serve street-involved youth calls for the sale of the property. We are committed to doing more, rather than accepting the inherent limitations of the Yonge Street location,” said Ms. Hunter.
“In the past we have regularly been under intense pressure to sell, whether from authorities with a public planning agenda, or commercial interests who were not enthusiastic about the presence of our ministry and people in downtown Toronto,” said the board chair. “We resisted because it wasn’t best for our ministry or the people we serve.
“Today, we are ready. We must be the best stewards we can be of all our resources. The prime driver of the sale is the urgent need to expand what we do, and respond to the changing needs of the people of our community. The sale is timely because of market prices, and because of the effort YSM has invested in recent years into clarifying its mission and vision – our calling from God.”
“Part of that clarity is our unwavering commitment to street-involved youth. Funds realized from the sale will also help us more intensely implement the integrated community development model that clearly is required to maximize our impact among everyone we serve,” said Ms. Hunter.
CEO Angie Draskovic emphasized the efforts underway in planning for the future, and ensuring a smooth transition.
“For so many supporters, volunteers and people helped by YSM, the location symbolizes the spirit of YSM – imitating the spirit of Christ and his concern for people who are left out of society. From within its walls, compassion has flowed to the streets for generations,” said Ms. Draskovic.
“The careers of many people who still serve in ministry were launched here. A very large portion of our 3,400 volunteers have given tremendous service within those walls. Year after year lives have been transformed.”
“Fueled by that track record, and the great affection attached to this ministry space, we are determined that the net result of relinquishing this cherished location will be greater capacity to serve our youth, and many others.
“Planning for Evergreen becomes a major stream in our current ministry planning, as we shape the future of YSM’s ministry model, programs, services, and operations. We have ample time to prepare a smooth transition.”
The CEO noted that the needs of the people served by YSM change constantly, and those needs govern how YSM responds.
“We have already begun a study into the current and projected needs of people living in poverty, with specific objectives for insight about those focused on by YSM. We’ll be consulting a wide range of stakeholders as we create our next three-to-five year plan,” she said.
“Meanwhile,” she added, “We will continue to offer the Evergreen program out of 381 Yonge Street for three more years. And all our youth, volunteers and community partners can be confident we will be fully engaged and present to those in deepest need – including young people – during and after any transition.”
About the Yonge Street Mission
Yonge Street Mission is called to demonstrate God’s love, peace and justice to people living with economic, social and spiritual poverty in Toronto. The Mission has worked on the front lines of poverty in Toronto since 1896, assisting as many people as possible to experience full participation in society. The hope, healing, and encouragement that the Mission offers is based solely on individual need, regardless of colour, culture, economic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation or social condition. The Mission supports at-risk people with an intentional focus on nurturing transformation in the lives of individuals and families living with poverty. We build on our successful initiatives to draw people from the margins into the mainstream of stable housing, employment and educational opportunities, and positive social interaction.
For more information or to schedule an interview with Angie Draskovic, CEO or Judy Hunter, Chair of the Board of The Yonge Street Mission, please contact:
Paul Davidson, Mission Administrative Officer