The anonymous donor had stayed at Shelter House before.
omerorhon via Getty Images
Nothing suggested this person was dealing with serious issues: they wore the coolest new sneakers, played video games late into the night, and often would speak in a mix of Internet jargon and meme jokes. There was no way this youth could be homeless, I thought.
"Design, Pics" via Getty Images
A few winters ago, I spent one extraordinary night wandering the streets of York Region, experiencing first-hand what homeless youth from our community go through every night. Organizers wanted us to better understand what homeless youth in York Region face every night.
I am fading in and out of the conversation -- lost between the hum of the bus and the fact that it's after 10 p.m. On any regular night, I'd be getting ready to go to bed and thinking about school the next day. Tonight I'm trying to get out of -20 degrees Celsius and find us all a bed.
It can take less than 10 seconds for a youth to become homeless. In York Region, homeless youth, more often than not, do not fit the stereotypical profile. Unlike urban centres, these young people are often homeless not just due to poverty. They stem from middle-class families and end up on the street for a variety of reasons.
Each year, 360⁰kids -- an organization that provides a range of services to York Region's homeless youth -- encourages local community members to experience homelessness, just for one night a year. Last March, our group made it through some bone-chilling temperatures. I will do it again this year. For more than 300 youth in a region that's home to large detached homes and flourishing businesses, they've lost count of how many nights they've been homeless. It's an issue that doesn't get enough attention.
Hemera Technologies via Getty Images
I can't truly explain how exhausting, challenging and incredibly cold this night was. I had been given a real-life scenario of a homeless youth as a part of 360°kids' 360°Experience. Our experience had us stepping into the shoes of a 16-year-old male, who was unsafe at home and had to leave quickly to save himself.
BananaStock via Getty Images
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.
As humans, we need to sleep. It is a biologically unavoidable act. Yet, on both sides of the border, "sleeping" can be considered a criminal act, especially if you are homeless and have no place to rest your head other than in public spaces such as parks. How have cities and states been able to impose and enforce by-laws and ordinances that clearly violate one's right to occupy public space for this very purpose? This summer several cases are putting this longstanding question to the legal test. The outcome might just change the way we view homelessness.
Rex Ziak via Getty Images
Anthony Van Zant is a homeless musician we've been filming for a year for a documentary film called Lowdown Tracks. We recorded the songs and stories of homeless musicians, but the process of making this film lead to even deeper revelations about my own prejudices and fears.
Mitchell Funk via Getty Images
On March 11, 2015, Toronto City Council finally approved funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth transitional housing. Although I am extremely disappointed that LGBTQ2S youth homelessness has been inadequately addressed for so many years, I am grateful that there is more understanding and awareness of this social justice crisis. I am also grateful that more organizations are now committed to developing campaigns and programs for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
The four homeless men who lost their lives in Toronto over the past two weeks have brought much needed public attention to the city's affordable housing crisis. While the swift response of Mayor Tory and City Council are welcome indications of progress to come, it is crucial that we do not fail to see the forest for the trees. Emergency shelter systems in Toronto and across Ontario must receive more funding and supports, but permanent solutions to housing insecurity require an increased supply of affordable homes and secure supportive housing spaces.
As temperatures drop below zero, homeless advocates around B.C. are thinking inside, as well as outside the box to come up with solutions for housing the province's most vulnerable this winter. On the...
They are typically from impoverished families, where addiction, neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse were prominent. They usually do not have a high school diploma. Most of them started abusing drugs and alcohol between the ages of 11 and 15, as an escape from the neglect and abuse that they were suffering at home.
I see him everyday, standing out in the street in the heat or the cold fighting ghosts in his head. All too often in Canada, the street or the emergency ward has become the place where those with severe mental illnesses end up. Those with mental illnesses make up a disturbing percentage of the homeless.
On any given night, thousands of Canadians languish in ramshackle housing, line up at shelters, or sleep in our streets and alleyways. This situation is not limited to our big cities, with the Homeless Hub estimating that on any given day, 30,000 Canadians are without homes. How can it be that in such a prosperous country, we continue to struggle to house those most in need?
The youth I have spoken to over the years have described Toronto's shelter system as a dangerous place for LGBTQ youth because of prolific homophobia and transphobia. I have heard stories of youth living in parks because they did not feel safe in the shelter system due to daily threats of homophobia and transphobia.
Project Winter Survival is a remarkable event where volunteers come together to help the homeless survive the cold winters. With the growing Canada-wide demand for Project Winter Survival's kits, being able to help as many of the homeless as possible is what my Bargains Group team pushes for, and this year were able to pack and distribute 3,000 kits.