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United Way Charity Spotlight – Argus

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By Emily Shim. This is the third article in a three-part series on the charities that the United Way supports.

Argus, The Watchful Guardian

Argus, meaning “watchful guardian” in Greek mythology, is an organization that lives up to its name. Executive Director, Eva Vlasov, shares that Argus, a residence for youth and adults achieves this feat by offering three main services: coordinated homelessness prevention, youth employment, and care homes for young victims of domestic violence and neglect.

Homelessness Prevention and Housing Help

Argus provides homelessness prevention and shelter diversion with their 24-7 support line to individuals aged 18 years and older who are seeking emergency shelter in the Waterloo region. The objective is to prevent or end one’s homelessness experience by finding alternative options for emergency shelter, which includes family reunification. Vlasov’s team can help with reunification by making the initial call to family or, in some extremes, by flying people across Canada and around the world. Vlasov shares that, “From January 2021 to September 2022, First Connect received nearly 10,000 calls for service, where 68% of callers had their homelessness experience prevented or ended by finding an alternative to emergency shelter.

Youth Employment

Argus supports youth seeking employment through two pathways. The first being a self-sustaining social enterprise called Uptown Thrift, where 100% of sales are used to create employment opportunities for young people in need. Additionally, Argus has been working with the Government of Canada since 2011 to provide employability skills training to young people with self-identified employment barriers, and has seen more than 80% of participants either return to school or secure employment in the community.

Care Home

Argus operates a care home for young victims of domestic violence and neglect where they are currently in a three-year training implementation and evaluation agreement with Cornell University to implement the “CARE Practice Model.” Care provided is through a principle-based approach which is applied across all of Argus’s services. These six principles are relationship based, family involved, ecologically oriented, competence centered, developmentally focused, and trauma informed. Vlasov shares that working alongside the faculty at Cornell has provided opportunities for better youth outcomes.

Jumping over new hurdles

Like many charitable organizations within our community, Argus faced new challenges from COVID-19. There was a growing demand for shelter beds due to fewer informal supports like friends and family, as many people were less willing to house guests due to concerns with quarantining. Housing options were further reduced as a lot of individuals lost their own homes because of economic issues caused by the pandemic. Many local businesses who had previously supported Argus closed during the pandemic. Argus also experienced what countless charities faced: an unprecedented barrier to fundraising that included cancelling their largest fundraising event which involves auctioning 500-600 items.

United Way Impact

Support from the United Way Community General Operating Support allows Argus to operate its care home by funding staffing costs, clothing, child and youth recreation, and transportation expenses. Without this United Way funding, the young victims relying on these care homes would lose the support and opportunities they desperately need.

To learn more about Argus and the variety of services they offer, visit their website.

Stay tuned for content about our campus United Way Campaign happening in October. To support Argus and other important organizations in our community, donate today!