Durham Youth Services Frequently Asked Questions


Who is eligible for service from DYS?

We don’t turn people away for help but, we may point you in the right direction for the best support for your situation!

We serve youth aged 16 -24. With all our programs, we are proud to offer an inclusive service that welcomes all gender identities and gender expressions.

To stay at Joanne’s House, you need to fall within our age range (16 -24), and be willing to work towards housing goals.

Our Family Reconnect program works with youth and their families, to help support youth in staying with their own family and/or natural supports, when it is safe for them to do so. We have an excellent track record of strengthening families and helping them thrive!

Both our transitional housing programs, and Housing First For Youth programs pull clients from the regional By-Name List, we would be happy to support you in being added to that list if you meet the eligibility requirements established by the Region of Durham.

How will you find me housing?

We cannot, and will not, “find housing for you”, but we WILL help you find housing for yourself, every step of the way!  Our goal is always to support you in finding a lasting solution to your housing crisis, and guide you through the process of your housing search. Our staff can do things like going to viewings with you, helping you with writing messages to landlords, and guiding you through filling out required paperwork. Ultimately, landlords are going to want to know that you are capable of independence and participating in whole process. So, even though we are here to help, you will need to be actively engaged in meeting your housing goals. We know this isn’t easy… but we know you can do it!

How long can I get support from DYS?

We don’t want to put a limit on it! As long as you are actively working towards finding a lasting solution to your housing crisis, and working towards maintaining that solution we are invested in supporting you!

What is the By-Name List (BNL)?

Essentially the By-Name List is the list with which the Durham Region distributes services. You are eligible for this once you have experienced homelessness for 2 weeks, but that doesn’t mean you have to be living in a shelter to be eligible! *By-Name List FAQ chart*

What programs am I able to apply for, and what programs are through the By-Name List?

Our Joanne’s House Housing Focused Shelter, Diversion, and Family Reconnect programs are all self-referred! By being on the By-Name List you have the opportunity to become connected with our Housing support Program, Transitional Housing Program, and Housing First For Youth Program!

I am looking for support for a loved one who I think may be experiencing homelessness, or who may be at risk of homelessness. How can I help them?

The sooner you call us the better! We are happy to guide you in the right direction, place referrals, and connect with this young person when they are ready! We can’t share any information the youth shares with us, but we are always happy to collaborate!

Will you report back to my guardian?

We take our client confidentiality incredibly seriously! We will never share any information unless you give us consent! If you have any other questions about information sharing please give our shelter team a call!


What does a housing focused program mean?

At Joanne’s House, we don’t just think of ourselves as a shelter; we are a housing program that happens to come with a temporary bed. We follow a housing first model, because we know that every single person is deserving of a safe, stable place to call home. Every day we will work with you, through any barriers that may come up in your housing plan, to ensure you get housed as soon as possible. The biggest requirement of our program is housing focus! We look forward to celebrating with you on the day you leave our program to move into your very own place!

I am pregnant… can you still help me?

Absolutely! We will do our due diligence in connecting you with supports for a healthy pregnancy! We are unfortunately not equipped to support anyone under the age of 16 in our shelter, so we will also support you in finding appropriate housing for you and the little one, or point you in the direction of community partners who will be able to support you both!

What does a typical day in shelter look like?

7:00 am – Wake up / Morning hygiene routine.

8:50 am-10:15 am – Morning meetings with DYS staff to set daily goals.

You’ll be given an appointment time for your scheduled meeting, and you will be expected to stay at the shelter to attend that meeting (exceptions can be made for people who have to go to school or work).

9:30 am-4:30 pm – After your morning meeting is done, you will go out into the community with a plan, and you will work on the goals that you have set for the day.

After 4:30 pm you may return to the shelter, and meet with the Youth Advocate team to share your progress in your housing plan.

Note: rooms are locked during the day from the end of morning meetings, until after you’ve checked in with the Youth Advocates in the at the end of the day, so you will want to take whatever belongings you need with you for the day!

10:00pm – Curfew. All clients must be in the house as of 10:00pm. Returning after curfew or failing to return may result in our giving up your bed to a client on the wait list!

10:00 pm-11:00pm – get ready for lights out! (chores/hygiene routine)

How will I get food?

We provide food for 3 meals a day in shelter – breakfast is self-made, lunch is a bagged lunch, and staff work to make a hot dinner each day. Enjoy cooking or want to learn how? Talk to our team about participating in the process. We’re happy to have you cook along with us. We aim to provide tasty, well-balanced meals that can be prepared on a budget. We will never serve anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves.

What do I do with my stuff? What does the shelter look like?

*Virtual tour*  <link coming soon!>.

I just want a place to stay; I am not interested in finding housing or working on housing goals What do I do with my stuff? What does the shelter look like?

At Durham Youth Services, our mission is to partner with youth to achieve and maintain lasting solutions to their housing crisis. We are committed to supporting you in achieving the goal of securing safe and stable housing. And, we do expect that the clients who stay at Joanne’s House are personally committed to that goal as well. You will be given all the support and guidance you may need to work on a housing plan, but you will also be expected to follow-through on that plan every day. If you are not interested in finding housing, Joanne’s House may not be the right place for you to stay. We are still happy to connect you with supports that will help you work towards your current goals!

What about work or school?

If your work or school is within the hours of our curfew (10pm – 8am), we can make accommodations, we will just need to see your schedule, so we know how to best support you!

I’ve never lived on my own before I don’t know where to start…

Give us a call, and we will see what supports we can provide, and point you in the right direction. Additionally, every client who comes through our shelter program is supported for up to a year if they choose while they adapt to independent living.

How can I get there for intake?

We do our intakes from 4pm-10 pm typically, but we are happy to help you figure out transportation. Give us a call and we can help you problem-solve!

Do youth need to call first?

We need to ask you a few questions before we can see if we are able to offer you a bed. This gives us an opportunity to problem-solve with you prior to intaking.

What about rules? Do you have them?

We do… and trust us, you want us to! Each client enters a social contract while staying at Joanne’s House, where you can expect to be treated with dignity and respect by staff and other clients, and we expect the same of everyone staying with us.  You can see the expectations laid out in this copy of the Client Guidelines.


Do I need to come to the shelter to get help from DYS?

Not at all! We believe everyone deserves better than living in a shelter, and we are committed to helping everyone find a safe and stable living situation outside of the shelter environment.  This is why, when you come to us, we try to find you housing even before you come to the shelter. And, just because you aren’t staying with us, doesn’t mean we won’t do what we can to support your success.  Give our Shelter Diversion Counsellor a call to talk about what options you may have, or click here to see our prevention programs.

What is HSP?

Our Housing Support Program, is geared to support individuals who do not require daily assistance, in maintaining their housing, and working towards their next goals. We can support with food security, obtaining mental health supports, making meaningful connections in your new community, landlord advocacy, and connecting to health professionals! We will continue to support you as long as you want or need us to!

Transitional housing… What’s that?

We know that sometimes people need some time with additional support to be able to get on their feet and to succeed in independent living. In our two transitional houses – one in Whitby and one in Ajax – clients to stay for up to a year while they work on personal goals with the support of our Housing Support Program worker. You pay rent, and work with others to manage the house, while working towards your personal goals. After completing a year in our transitional program our HSP worker will support you in finding independent housing.

What is Housing First For youth?

Housing First For Youth is a program utilized to support clients with complex challenges who struggle to maintain stable housing. There is support offered for rent subsidy, addictions, food security, and a variety of other areas! We offer intense case management to help you, and we will continue to support you in this program until we both feel you are ready for graduation!

What is Family Reconnect, and what does that program do?

Our Family Reconnect program is a family and natural supports program that collaborates with the youth, and their guardian, or natural support to mediate any conflict and keep the youth at home. Our Family Natural Supports Lead can support the youth with any challenges they face which impact, or could impact their relationship with their guardian, or natural supports. Additionally, the Family & Natural Supports Lead will work with the parent to teach them how to best support the youth, and meet them where they are at. We have an amazing track record of strengthening families and helping them thrive!


Are you currently accepting donations?

Gratefully! Thank you for choosing us!

We are always accepting monetary donations in support of our clients. Additionally, we would love to get some household items for when our clients successfully move to housing (think about what you needed when you got your first apartment!)

We love getting gift cards that we can pass on to clients, which also gives the gift of dignity, allowing them the ability to shop for what is most meaningful to them.

Admittedly, we have limited storage space inside our shelter. When accepting gently used items, we will assess whether the items match what our current clients need.  When items are a match, we gratefully accept them, and pass them on to our clients. When items do not match the needs of our current clients, we simply do not have the space to store donations. We have a partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association, and we will share the donation with them, making a contribution to another worthy cause.

How can I help support your agency in their mission?

We are grateful that you want to! We have many opportunities to volunteer time and talent, to contribute financially or with gift cards or other products, or to help in other meaningful ways. We are happy to connect with you about our current needs, and how you may be able to support. Please reach out to our Administrative Coordinator through contact@durhamyouth.com to discuss.

I’ve been donating a long time, can I come meet your clients?

We appreciate our amazing community donors! However, we value our client’s confidentiality, and privacy very strongly! Our staff would be happy to connect with you to talk about how your donations are making a meaningful difference.

I would love to work for your agency how can I apply?

All our job postings can be found on our Indeed page!

I am a student looking for a placement opportunity, how can I apply?

For more information on student placement click here.

Please send your resume/cover letter to Joanna.panayiotous@durhamyouth.com


Is the Nightstop program safe?

DYS cares passionately about the safety about the youth we serve and the volunteers that support them. That is why we have modelled our program after 360kids who have operated Nightstop successfully in York Region since 2017.

All youth that access Nightstop have been screened through a comprehensive risk assessment tool and DYS conducts two reference checks on each youth to determine  program eligibilty.

All hosts have been screened, selected and trained. The final selection of hosts is reviewed by an advisory committee comprised of representatives from Durham Youth Services, Durham Regional Police, Victim Services of Durham Region, Durham Mental Health Services, Durham Region Street Outreach Team and The Refuge. 

We’re excited by the expertise of our community partners who have agreed to volunteer their 

DYS’ Nightstop combines an accredited program with high quality standards and a selection committee with expertise in risk assessment and community safety to protect the safety of hosts, volunteers and youth.

What is a Volunteer Host?

Volunteer Hosts are trained and vetted adults who offer a safe, comfortable, and private bedroom for a youth who is at risk of/or currently experiencing a housing crisis. In addition to the sleeping space, Hosts provide bathroom facilities, laundry access as well as three meals (dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch).

What is a Volunteer Driver?

Volunteer Drivers are trained and vetted adults who ensure a youth can receive safe transportation.  Drivers are contacted by DYS to prearrange a pickup time and place. The driver then meets the youth, transports them to their Hosts home and introduces the youth to the Volunteer Host. Drivers complete a “warm transfer” for the youth ensuring the youth feels safe before the driver leaves. Drivers must have their own vehicle, insurance and a clean driver’s abstract.

What is the process to becoming a Nightstop volunteer?

The process begins by applying to volunteer to be either a Host or Driver. Once an application has been received by DYS, we will contact the prospective volunteer to schedule an interview, ask to speak with your references, request a Vulnerable Sector Check.

If you are applying to become a Host(s), an in-person home visit will also be scheduled.

If applying to become a Driver, proof of car insurance, drivers abstract, and a safety assessment of your vehicle will be scheduled.

Drivers and Hosts who are selected for phase 2 of our recruitment process will have an interview with member(s) of our selection committee.

Selected volunteers Hosts and Drivers will attend a mandatory training to provide them with the skills, tools and resources they need to successfully support the youth in need.

How often would I have to make a commitment to Hosting?

Nightstop Host Volunteers host on a night-by-night basis and have the flexibility to create their own schedules. Keeping an open line of communication with DYS, ensures we can meet the needs of the youth.

Will I be compensated for being a Host?

Nightstop volunteers are committed, passionate community members motivated to make a difference in the lives of youth.

Nightstop program design offers a $35/day honorarium to the Host for every day that they have a youth staying with them to offset the expense of meals and utilities. Host homes will be provided with a basket of youth essentials including undergarments and sleepwear in a variety of sizes, toiletries and personal hygiene items.

Will I be compensated for being a Driver?

Nightstop volunteers are committed, passionate community members motivated to make a difference in the lives of youth.

Nightstop Drivers will be able to expense mileage incurred by driving youth to their safe accomodation.