For several years the founders of The Dam, Michael Clarke and Bill Crawford, worked on the inner-city streets of Toronto for Yonge Street Mission’s Evergreen Centre for Street Youth. Research indicated that 60-80% of the youth that became street youth in the inner city came from middle-class or better homes in the suburbs or small towns like Mississauga. This was general due to domestic problems, including significant emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Research and community stakeholders led to the Meadowvale area of Mississauga where Michael and Bill began their work hanging out in the food court of the Meadowvale Town Centre, interacting with the 500 youth who came to the mall each day. The owners of the Meadowvale Town Centre supported the work of this by providing a low rent space in the mall to run a drop-in staffed with caring volunteers and a team of full-time outreach workers.
In July 1995 they drop-in opened its doors for the first time. It was named "The Dam Youth Drop-in" in the hopes that building relationships with youth while still at home and in the community would serve a preventative function like 'a dam' and stop the flow of youth from Mississauga to becoming homeless on the streets of Toronto.
In December 1998 the mall owners generously expanded the space for the drop-in from 1,350 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. Over 250 different youth used the services of The Dam each day at the drop-in through lunch, after school and evening programs; specialized workshops in art, drama, writing; seminars in drug and alcohol abuse; life skills training etc.
In April 2002 the Drop-in at Meadowvale Town Centre was closed because of a massive redevelopment at the mall and for 4 years without a dedicated program space of their own, the focus of The Dam’s programming shifted to outreach and mentoring to youth and young mothers.
In July 2004 committed office space was secured and in January of 2006 The Dam celebrated the opening of a new drop-in space at the Meadowvale Town Centre.
At The Dam's 15th Anniversary in 2010 it was announced that The Dam was going to embark on a journey to expanding through new project and through programs in new neighbourhoods over the course of the next 5 years.
In 2011 The Dam partnered with a church in Burlington called 24/7 to build community with youth who were coming to their space on Thursday nights. Our Burlington program expanded to include outreach into a local school as well as mentoring. However, theDam | Burlington programs ended in September 2013 partly due to lack of sustainable funding.
Parallel to our expansion to Burlington, The Dam also partnered with World Vision in 2010 to start the process of expanding our programs to an additional neighbourhood in Mississauga. After some research it was decided that The Dam would expand to Cooksville and a lengthy community assessment process was engaged in to help develop a youth engagement strategy that would reflect the needs and desires of the community and its youth. In 2011 a program coordinator was hired, outreach to the local school and in the community. On April 1, 2012 our lease at 3115 Hurontario St. began, a house across the street from TL Kennedy Secondary School, and the doors opened for programs in the fall of 2012.