Youth Homelessness in York Region the 2015 – 360 Experience

Homelessness is an issue that is hard to imagine exists in the affluent community that we call home. For many, including myself, it is even harder to believe that homelessness and youth can be said in the same sentence. The sad reality however, is that York Region has a significant, and likely underestimated number of youth that are homeless. The reasons for this situation are varied, but whatever the reason, 360Kids is there to help our young people find shelter and to give them the resources that they need to get back on their feet.

On March 5th 2015, 360 Kids sponsored the 2nd annual 360 Experience. This day of homelessness allowed more than 30 community leaders to experience what a young person might experience if they found them selves without shelter. I participated in this initiative last year, but it was clear right from the start that it was considerably colder this year with the temperature dropping to -20C. Close to $100,000 was raised to help 360 kids fulfill their mission and perhaps just as importantly, 30 community leaders like myself had the opportunity to learn more about this problem.

In my estimation youth should be a time that is all about learning and growing – building skills and friendships. It is about hope and positive thoughts of one’s long term future. It should not be about finding a safe and warm place to sleep at night. This is why I am involved with 360kids, and why I was proud to be a part of the 360 Experience again this year.

 

 

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The staff and participants of the 360 Experience

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We are off to find shelter for the night – not sure of the challenges that await.

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Several participants found shelter and a warm(ish) place to sleep in a bank ATM kiosk

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It is hard to imagine getting a good night’s sleep for any more than one night in a row in such conditions. I would find it hard to imagine how hard it would be to write a math test the next day with only a few hours of sleep and now time to study properly.

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The alternative to finding a warm inside space, is sleeping outside – it was -20C this year. Last year it was warmer but it snowed!

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Aside from the discomfort of a sleeping space like this is the lack of safety and security while you sleep

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Passing the time in a Coffee Shop is another strategy for keeping warm but eventually you can likely expect to get kicked out

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In many cases the nearest Shelter Bed to Richmond Hill is a 30-40 minute bus ride coupled with a sometimes long walk

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Two of our Community Leaders at the Blue Door Shelter in Holland Landing – a 30 minute bus ride, another shorter connecting bus ride, and then a long dark walk past the end of the bus line to the shelter

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Our participants (including Mayor Barrow) being briefed on the check in procedures at one of the Blue Door Shelters in Holland Landing (which was full on this night by the time we arrived)

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A long and cold walk along Yonge Street from the end of the bus line to the Blue Door Shelter in Holland Landing

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Walking the Streets at midnight to find a warm place to stay – not the way it should be for our young people!