Youth homelessness: A population of adolescents who live without the support of a family. This epidemic, occurring in both first and third world countries, exists in such a large scope that our own hometown has been encumbered with an estimated 750 child runaways. These individuals, despite their tender age, have truly “been through the mill.” Populating dirty street corners and crowded shelters, engaging in the drug trades for a spare coin, and resorting to obscenities that can only signify an abysmal past are examples of the horrors they have experienced. A whopping 70% have been subject to some manifestation of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.
Furthermore, many have not finished their high school curriculum, resulting in a torrent of uneducated homeless youth. Convent House, an agency located across the America, contends with this growing upsurge in street youth by housing, feeding, washing, clothing, and preparing adolescents for the outside world, which is, to say the least, an expensive endeavor.
In an eye opening initiative entitled “Sleep out Vancouver”, Junior Round Square attempts to infringe Vancouver’s superficial sense of security and expose a select group of Collingwood’s affluent students to the reality of youth homelessness. This ambitious scheme, presided over by Eve Parry and operating parallel to Covenant House’s own “Sleep Out” series, kicks off with a bottle drive on May 23rd. All students are invited, and encouraged, to stockpile their liquor and pop for house points. These containers can be deposited between 8 and 8:30, and all proceeds will be donated to Covenant House.
With the close of this inauguration on May 26th comes the salient event, which commences at 3:30 PM to collect and organize the bottles. It yields a total of 5 service hours and the opportunity to participate in a medley of beneficial exploits. Following a preliminary exercise to a bottle deposit, where students will exchange their loot for donation money, participants will venture to the Covenant House itself to partake in needed service. This activity in particular truly embodies Round Squares revived ideology “beyond the bake sale”, as volunteers are able to connect with youth their age living in parallel universes. Such an opportunity blurs, to some extent, the divide between classes. Students will thus reflect on this experience in an individual reflection, a group discussion, and an assortment of collaborative activities.
The overnight portion, in which participants will sleep on the grounds of Collingwood with only a wedge of cardboard and a sleeping bag to sate their comfort, is perhaps the most pivotal event. However, the students’ precious Friday is not forfeited in vain. This stimulation, though grueling, is designed to generate deeper thinking and will leave a lasting impact. Collingwood’s youth, which we can concede to be rather “sheltered,” will face a calibrated version of what others contend with every day. Despite how unpleasant this symbolic endeavor is bound to be, it will hopefully shed some light on what exists in our own backyard.
By: Clara Chalmers