The first snowfall happened this weekend, so what happens in this kind of weather to the homeless youth who sleep on Toronto’s streets?
Well, they continue to sleep on the streets despite the damp and bitter cold conditions.
With this in mind, on this #CharityTuesday we desire to raise awareness about youth homelessness and how Covenant House Toronto is responding to this need night after night.
According to its website, Covenant House’s mission is to “serve suffering children of the street, and protect and safeguard all children…with absolute respect and unconditional love.” (para. 1)
Unquestionably, Covenant House does indeed serve youth who are homeless in such tangible ways including:
- A Crisis Centre
- Job Centre
- Onsite Highschool
- Runaway Prevention
- BMO Financial Group Health Centre
- Job Training Programs
- Support Services
- CIBC Rights of Passage (Communal Living)
- Mental Health Programs
More so, Covenant House does an overwhelmingly excellent job of destroying the stigma surrounding youth homelessness by debunking myths and stereotypes. For example, consider the following “Facts & Stats” from Covenant House’s website which helps reinforce the concept that indeed “no kid chooses to live on the streets”:
- It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 homeless youth in Toronto during any given year and as many as 2,000 on a given night.
- It is estimated that the mortality rate of homeless youth is up to 40 times the mortality rate of housed youth with primary causes of death identified as suicide and drug overdose.
- Abuse and neglect are the two major reasons why youth leave home. Studies show 70 percent of homeless youth have suffered some form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- 50 percent of homeless youth come from middle- and upper-income families (para. 1).
When youth become homeless, they don’t all automatically end up sleeping on street grates or in doorways. In fact, they end up staying in a variety of places.
A 1999 survey found that:
- 60% of street youth are staying in one of Toronto’s youth shelters.
- 25% staying in an apartment (92% were staying with friends and ‘couch surfing’).
- 15% staying on the street of which 4% were living in squats, and 9% in parks, alleys, and doorways (para. 4).
People become homeless for a wide variety of reasons – loss of a job, marital breakdown, mental illness and alcohol and drug addiction. But when it comes to youth and children, the reasons tend to revolve around the family (para. 3).
If this cause tugs at your heart strings, considering donating. After all, Covenant House affirms that “83% of our revenue comes from donations from individuals. Because of people like you, our doors are open 24 hours a day to youth 16 to 24 regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation or the reason they need help” (para. 7).
And if you really want to know what happens in this kind of winter weather to the homeless youth who sleep on Toronto’s streets, consider participating in Covenant House’s annual fundraising event called “Sleep Out” in which business executives will sleep on the city’s streets “with only a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard, [and have] a glimpse into the harsh realities of life faced by homeless youth” (para. 3).