The Shelter Project: Raising Awareness about
Youth Homelessness in Kings County
By Genevieve Allen Hearn
The Portal Youth Centre will be running the Shelter Project for the second year. This year running from November 30 to December 2. The Shelter Project was conceived by Donna and Blaine Eldridge at the Harvest House in Windsor and Moncton. Russ Sanche, The Portal’s Youth Outreach Coordinator, saw the potential to run a similar project in Kentville, and this year he is aligning it with the Orange Door Campaign with Home Depot. For three days there will be a makeshift shelter set up on 437 Main Street in Kentville that serves as a powerful image representing the struggle of youth homelessness. Individuals are invited to experience being in the cold by taking shifts in the shelter.
“The Shelter Project is about raising awareness around youth homelessness,” says Sanche. “We hope the project helps people to identify with some of the factors that contribute to youth homelessness and also the challenges of sleeping in a makeshift shelter.” He continues, “at any one time, there are over fifty youth couch-surfing in Kings County, and over 100 youth at risk of being homeless.”
Sanche also wants the community to know that, for many reasons, couch-surfing is not a safe option. “At the beginning, it might seem like nothing, but as time goes on, they’re vulnerable to criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation, loneliness, depression, and a greater disconnect and isolation from others. Without judgment, we need to lend a helping hand and help them to get support.”
The Portal’s overarching call to action, through running awareness initiatives such as the Shelter Project, is to encourage a provincial strategy to end youth homelessness. For Sanche, “there are four main things we need to see: prevention, compassionate response with rapid rehousing, zero-eviction policies, and critical and relational supports for youth that have found housing.” There’s currently a 10-year plan to end youth homelessness that can be found at youthhomelessnomore.ca.
“As a community, we need to rally around young people that are finding that family breakdown and other issues have led them to become homeless. If we reach out with compassion and wisdom, we have the ability to wrap community care around those youth.”
For more information on The Portal or how to take a shift during the Shelter Project, visit portalyouth.ca.