In 2018, the Engineers Without Borders U of T Student Chapter founded their Local Poverty Alleviation Portfolio (LPA). The LPA’s mandate was to create projects that responded to Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Transit Access Project was preceded by a project conceived by Adam El-Masri and Rachel Wong in the summer of 2018, who were interested in systemic barriers faced by youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto. After discussions with the City of Toronto, experts from the Homeless Hub, community members, and youth services providers, the challenge of transit access for youth was identified as an area of interest.
In fall 2018, Adam and Rachel recruited a team with the goal of establishing the groundwork to develop a project with the vision of providing any youth requiring free transit this service, no strings attached. The explicit desire of ‘as few strings attached as possible’ was in response to the recognition that not all youth wish to be classified as ‘homeless’, or consider themselves to be ‘homeless’, and that being asked to ‘prove’ homelessness is inherently stigmatizing. In the spring of 2018, the team entered the Map the System contest and presented our work to a panel of experts at the University of Toronto.
In fall of 2019, with Rachel Wong as the project lead, four new inquisitive, motivated, and talented students were recruited onto the project–Mona Murphy, Emma Blewette, Madeline Shishis, and Noah Kelly. Together, this five-person team founded the Transit Access Project (TAP), developing a research framework to provide evidence for the benefits of transit access for youth experiencing homelessness.
Special thanks to our previous team members: Ragave Vicknarajah, Madeline Rao-Shishis, Mark El-Nahal, Nicola Lawford, Chaitanya Ahuja