When a donor provided the RAFT with a $100,000 gift in 2020, they did so with some specific requests.
The money was to be used for housing. The RAFT, which provides support services for at-risk and homeless youth, also had to ensure the gift’s legacy and longevity.
Enter the Niagara Community Foundation and Executive Director Bryan Rose, who helped the RAFT establish a namesake fund that would support Niagara youth for years to come.
“The main concern was making sure the donor was satisfied with how we were investing the money,” said Mike Lethby, RAFT executive director. “Bryan laid out the options for us and tailored it to what we needed.”
The result is a fund whose dividends are used to provide monthly rental supplements between $250 and $350 to RAFT clients.
About 40 per cent of the youth the RAFT supports live outside of Niagara’s three main urban centres where there’s constricted rental housing supply and, like elsewhere in the region, rents are high. Meanwhile, the average monthly Ontario Works payment a young person receives to cover all living expenses is about $700. In comparison, rent for a one-bedroom apartment exceeds $1,000 a month.
Uprooting a client to bring them to the RAFT’s 16-bed shelter in St. Catharines isn’t a viable alternative, Lethby explained. It takes a vulnerable youth out of their community and away from their support network.
Using The RAFT Fund to help with rent supplements ensures some stability, he said — for both RAFT clients and the organization itself.
“That’s an established fund and we’re hoping other donors see that and donate to the fund,” Lethby said. “It’s something we thought was a real benefit to going this route with the Niagara Community Foundation. It makes us feel part of the community to have this, and there’s a sense of permanency to what we’re doing as well.”