For the last decade I have run campaigns on my blog, participated in stunts, traveled, and volunteered for local and global causes. One of the most powerful experiences I have had was during last year’s Covenant House Sleep Out, which is why I’m doing it again this year.
“Many of the kids have lived with violence or the threat of violence for much of their young lives. Feeling safe is a right we all have but one these kids have not enjoyed.”
The Sleep Out, hosted by Covenant House locations across North America, sees local executives and personalities sleep outside for one night to show support for the youth who have ended up at Covenant House after their own time on the streets.
This was one of the coldest nights I have ever endured, as the group of 29 participants and I laid on scraps of cardboard in a back alley off West Pender in downtown Vancouver until the sun came up.
As I looked up at the clear late November sky, with only my face peeking out from behind the scarf I wrapped around my toque, I thought about how street youth in our city would be walking up from the frigid asphalt like I was, except they would not be grabbing a coffee and heading home to a warm bed for the rest of the day as I was going to do.
Every single night the cold that pierced through my sleeping bag pokes through whatever covers they might find. And that’s just the cold, on top of every other element and obstacle they face. This is where Covenant House’s crisis shelter and their other programs come in.
Before heading out that night last November, Marty Staniforth, Senior Development Officer at Covenant House, told us that it would be the worst event we’ve ever attended — it was meant to be uncomfortable — and he was right in that regard. However, prior to heading out, we spent some time at Covenant House speaking with some of their youth and touring their facility.
We learned about their various levels of care such as the Crisis Shelter, Drop in Centre, Street Outreach, and Rights of Passage.
It was encouraging to meet kids who went from being homeless, to the crisis shelter all the way through to Rights of Passage, Covenant House’s program that prepares them for the bigger world. Those in Rights of Passage actually pay (an affordable) rent and get full access to programs provided that they have a job or they are in school. They end up learning basics like grocery shopping and budgeting, and once they are through the program (6 months to 2 years) they are supported when they eventually move out, even welcomed to return for the weekly communal dinners. The care just keeps going to ensure the youth become self-sufficient, gainfully employed, successful individuals.
39% of Covenant House’s youth present with a mental health diagnosis
70% have witnessed family violence
50% of Covenant House’s youth present with an addiction problem
Covenant House Vancouver provides food, shelter, clothing and counselling to the estimated 700 street youth living in Vancouver at any given time. Most of the young people they help have fled abuse at home or have aged out of the foster care system. Last year, over 1,375 young people accessed Covenant House’s services.
1,035 youth came to the Drop-In
1,457 housing worker appointments were held; 44 youth secured accommodation and 197 maintained their existing home
2,821 contacts were made on the street (with 552 individual youth)
To support Covenant House this year, you can donate directly to my Covenant House Vancouver Sleep Out campaign or get your ticket to the Miss604 anniversary party on November 13th. I’ll have some awesome raffle prizes up for grabs, with proceeds going to the cause, along with food, drinks, and good times. Please join me in celebrating 10 years of Miss604 by supporting Covenant House Vancouver.
Follow Covenant House Vancouver on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the organization.