When there are no beds, homeless youth often resort to sleeping in garages, in abandoned trailers and buildings or even worse, in forests and fields and other hidden places across the region. They are vulnerable to illness, emotional trauma, criminal threats and violence.
A few winters ago, I spent one extraordinary night wandering the streets of York Region, experiencing first-hand what homeless youth from our community go through every night. Organizers wanted us to better understand what homeless youth in York Region face every night.
It can take less than 10 seconds for a youth to become homeless. In York Region, homeless youth, more often than not, do not fit the stereotypical profile. Unlike urban centres, these young people are often homeless not just due to poverty. They stem from middle-class families and end up on the street for a variety of reasons.
Each year, 360⁰kids -- an organization that provides a range of services to York Region's homeless youth -- encourages local community members to experience homelessness, just for one night a year. Last March, our group made it through some bone-chilling temperatures. I will do it again this year. For more than 300 youth in a region that's home to large detached homes and flourishing businesses, they've lost count of how many nights they've been homeless. It's an issue that doesn't get enough attention.
The holiday season is truly a magical time of year. It is a time for giving, reflection, and appreciation. Many individuals and organizations come together and show thanks by donating what they can to those in need. Unfortunately, the holidays will not be magical for everyone, especially not for a high proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth who have experienced familial, societal, and institutional rejection. The holidays can be an especially lonely time for many, particularly for those without a safe place to call home.
How is it that we become outraged by one tweet from a celebrity and not by any number of grave issues and epidemics facing society as a whole? After all, there is certainly no shortage of worthwhile causes to support. One issue that's certainly got my attention is youth homelessness in Canada.
Imagine being a street kid for a second. You can't always just go home. Every day is a survival. Finding food and shelter is your job. Everything is an obstacle. Every time you beg for change, every time you go to the bathroom, every time you want to sleep, eat or drink -- nothing comes easy.
For vulnerable Canadian young people ensnared in the sex trade, this morning's Supreme Court decision to allow legal prostitution is distressing. We at Covenant House, the largest agency serving homeless, runaway and trafficked youth in the Americas, believe it could result in an escalation of child prostitution and human trafficking, as it has in other countries where the sex trade is legal. Those of us whose primary concern is the protection of the young will be closely monitoring how the government proposes to implement and regulate prostitution.