Jesse Willms: Homeless For A Night

Posted by Jesse Willms on May 12, 2011

For many of us, being hungry or homeless is just an abstraction. We see it on television or read about it in the newspaper, but we can’t imagine what it would be like for us. It just seems like something that happens to “other” people, so while we can be sympathetic, it’s hard for us to put ourselves in their shoes.

Yet, particularly for young people, hunger and homelessness are not things to see on a television screen in their living rooms – it’s a way of life, and a trap that can lead them to drugs, prostitution or an early grave.

That’s why I’m giving $1,000 to support the Youth Emergency Shelter Society’s “Homeless For A Night” event on May 27. It not only will raise money to help at-risk youth; it will also be a chance for the more fortunate of us to find out what it’s like not to have a roof over our heads.

YESS is a great organization that seeks to help teenagers who fall through the cracks of our welfare system.  Up until age 16, a child who is at-risk or suffering from poverty can get help from Child and Family Services. Once they turn 18, they can get support from our adult welfare system. But, when they are 16 and 17 years old there is no government system in place.

This leads to a lot of problems. Because there is no official system to help them, many of these children end up homeless, involved in the sex trade or addicted to drugs.

YESS provides them the shelter, food and counseling they need until they turn 18, take control of their lives and have access to social services for adults.

During the Homeless For A Night event, people will seek out pledges in exchange for sleeping rough. There are various levels of “comfort” participants can choose, ranging from a mat in the middle of the field to a tent with cots.

This will only be for one night – but it will help people develop a greater sense of empathy for young people who have to live this way every day and see no way out.

Supporting this event is an act of human compassion. Young people are not garbage meant to be put out on the street at night. They are children who deserve a nice bed, a roof over their heads and a warm meal.

They deserve our help. It’s as simple as that.