In 2015, JAYU launched the iAM project with the mission of using photography and storytelling to empower six youth who identified as homeless to share their stories with the general public. For several weeks, we held workshops where we connected several talented photographers from Toronto with a shelter for at-risk/homeless youth and provided the safe space and mentorship to train the youth on how to take photographs of our city with mobile phones that were donated from our community. Building off the trust that had developed over the course of these workshops, we entered the second phase of our project where we each opened up and shared personal stories about ourselves in an environment that was free from judgment. We worked with the youth in developing their personal stories and recorded each of them.

The project culminated with a rotating gallery across the city that featured four framed photographs from each youth (24 photos total), alongside audio recordings from each of the participants. The goal was to breakdown negative stigma in our community centered on youth homelessness, create an environment where the youth participants could become empowered, skills building, developing an appreciation for the arts, using art to heal, and income generation (100% of the profits from each photo sale went directly back to the youth participant). Over $4,500 was raised and the project was featured on several media outlets including The Globe and Mail, CTV, The Metro (front page), Canadian Press and much more. Most importantly, we were able to build a new community with individuals who are often overlooked and ignored by society at large. 


  1. Provide a platform for homeless and at-risk youth to share their stories through art.
  2. Generate income for the participants.
  3. Smash negative stigma and stereotypes about homeless youth.
  4. Provide the participants with the confidence and skills to break free from the cycle of homelessness.