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At 17, Mathew Brunning was alone, hungry and quickly running out of options. The place he had once called home was unstable; his mother struggled with mental-health issues and he constantly experienced her unpredictable bouts of anger. “When I was with my mom, the future looked dark,” he says.

But, with his father in the hospital and no friends to stay with, Mathew was left with only one place to turn—the streets.

Two years later, Mathew was well acquainted with the shelter system. Following a conflict with a fellow resident, he soon found himself back on the streets. Mathew was in desperate need of a hot meal and a warm bed—and, most importantly, a safe place to call “home.” He found it at Blue Door Shelters, a United Way–funded agency.

“The staff at Blue Door was really supportive,” he says of the York Region shelter. “From the moment I walked in, I felt safe, accepted and cared for. The streets are a dangerous place, so I was happy Blue Door was there.”

With your gift to United Way Toronto & York Region, agency staff members were able to help Mathew secure a spot in a transitional-housing program, the first step in getting him back on his feet. He also attained proper identification—crucial when looking for employment and housing—and became familiarized with important resources, from learning the bus schedule to locating vital community supports.

“The staff were really helpful, easy to talk to and always made me feel good,” Mathew adds. “I made a lot of great friends there.”

Just three months after leaving Blue Door, Mathew began to build a new life off the streets. He’s currently employed at a local farm. But, his dreams extend to something much bigger: starting his own online company that links people like him to local services and resources.

“I want to give back,” explains Mathew. “I want other youth to know there is hope for them, too.”