Creating pathways through education and career exploration.
The Ve’ahavta Street Academy (VSA) is a free adult education course supporting individuals marginalized by poverty to improve their lives. VSA is offered in partnership with George Brown College, which provides library access and a certificate upon successful completion.
A post-secondary education is the stepping stone to achieving one’s career and personal goals. Sadly, for marginalized individuals in the city of Toronto, access to post-secondary education is hampered by financial and emotional/psychological obstacles.
Only 53% of the homeless population graduate high school compared to 90% of the general population.
Toronto has the second highest homeless population of any Canadian city, with an average of 5,250 people who are homeless on the streets every night.
Our Theory for Change
- Removing obstacles and providing an educational program tailored to marginalized individuals’ needs, supporting positive change in their lives.
- Creating a safe environment where participants can renew their sense of self worth, and create a lasting impact paving the way for them to realize their potential.
- Engaging skilled community members as volunteer facilitators, to offer high quality expertise, while also inspiring them to value the contribution marginalized individuals can make to society.
- Developing individualized, personal and educational plans for each to further their life goals in a sustainable way.
The great thing about Ve’ahavta is that it not only teaches you how to fish, it supplies the net, the boat and all the hooks that are needed.
— Matthew Williams
2018 Ve’ahavta Street Academy Graduate
VSA is an innovative and powerful 9–week adult education program created for vulnerable individuals who are marginally housed, many of whom have mental health and/or substance use issues.
The program is held on George Brown College’s campus in Toronto. This vibrant campus atmosphere offers students the experience of an educational environment and nurtures their sense of belonging.
The Essential Skills training program is designed to reduce marginalization, and decrease social isolation. The program addresses the physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs of each student with compassion, and validates the valuable contribution they can make to society. It offers people practical tools and supports that will empower them to set and pursue their goals, creating pathways through education and career exploration.
VSA is highly effective and unique in that it provides:
- Practical group personal development and career exploration workshops
- Vocational assessments and individual program plans
- Peer-led approach and qualified program staff with lived experience
- Emphasis on building social connections
- Facilitators include professors, community leaders and industry experts
- Stipend provided for good attendance
- One-on-one support from a case manager for six months post-program
- Alumni program for ongoing support
VSA Bridge and Alumni Programs
The VSA Bridge and Alumni Programs were implemented in order to support VSA graduates through information sharing as well as the provision of guidance, hope and inspiration as they pursue their goals. Through the Alumni Program, VSA graduates remain engaged in a positive peer environment and acquire a sense of belonging. They participate in various activities including monthly meetings, learn from guest speakers and receive referrals to community resources.
I’ve seen the brave and the broken. And I’ve wondered, ‘is there a portal from one to the other and back?’ In all my experience, the greatest classroom I’ve entered is not a place, but an idea; an initiative called The Ve’ahavta Street Academy. Teachers such as myself interact with students, in what can only be described as an exploration of wisdom. I have taught a class each semester for 5 years now, and am constantly moved and informed by the process. The students are empowered.
— Ron MacLean