In response to Simon Nattrass’ article, “A Crisis of Youthful Poverty,” that appeared in the April edition of Focus magazine, Paul Gerrard, a Saanich Councillor, wrote the following letter to the editor. It is a clear description of the problem as well as a cry for all sectors of the community to start addressing this challenge. The letter is reproduced in its entirety and appears on page 6 in the current May edition of Focus magazine.
I have just been appointed to the Coalition to End Homelessness, and the article on homeless youth really hit a nerve with me. Some years ago, as part of the homeless count, I interviewed a group of young people at a drop-in centre in a downtown church basement, and found a mixed bag of circumstances in their stories. Many had fled a violent or sexual situation at home, some had been thrown out for drug use, and some, sadly, had been told that they were worthless and weren’t wanted anymore. Imagine what hearing that does for your confidence and self worth?
Remarkably, I found an intelligent group of young people who had a selection of survival techniques, and most importantly, looked after and supported one another. They shared friendly “couch surfing” addresses, camped together in our parks, shared food and drink, and had a drop-in centre to go to that was a welcome refuge from the streets. One thing everyone agreed on: shelters were a last resort, and everyone had a bad experience to recount. We really need supportive housing for all of our homeless population; shelters are just a band-aid solution and only suit
On May 3rd, Threshold received a donation of $625 from Victoria High School students under the auspices of the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth program. The Vital Youth program provides students with hands-on experience in philanthropy and community development. Formally launched in three schools in November 2003, the program—previously named Youth in Philanthropy—has grown to include seven high schools in three school districts. For more information on this program see Vital Youth.
The event was held at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Oak Bay. Students from the college performed a wonderful piece from their new stage production of “Footloose.” This was a marvelous performance and reflected so precisely the energy and vitality of young people channelled toward making the community a better place for each of us to live.
From left to right: Mark Muldoon (Threshold), Abi Hodson (Youth Advisory Council), Mohammed Rasheed, Kamille Tobin-Shields, Brianna Sheppard-Murphy, and Maggie Wright.
On April 5th, Threshold was the happy recipient of a donation that can be traced back to Christmas. During the Christmas season, Black Press sponsored a donation drive called “Pennies for Presents.” It involved collecting loose change from Christmas shoppers that would eventually be distributed to help the needy through five different charities in the area. The different agencies involved in this year’s drive included the Mary Manning Centre, Threshold Housing Society, Victoria READ Society, the Young Parents Support Network and NEED2.
From Left to Right: Danielle Pope (of Monday Magazine), Tara Skobel, Mark Muldoon, Rebekah Humphrey, Graham Kelly (of Threshold)
The initiative collected more than $12,000 in Greater Victoria last year and more than $600,000 since its inception. Thanks to everyone who chipped in and helped. It is a great sign of encouragement and community support for the great work done by non-profits in our community. Special thanks to Black Press for reaching out and being such great supporters of this wild, wonderful experiment called “human kindness.”
On March 15th, 2011, The Belfry Theatre sponsored the staging of “The Middle Place,” a play that aptly depicts the life of youths staying in a youth shelter. Using a process called “verbatim theatre,” the play used the voices of real youths staying in a youth shelter to express the pain and trauma of such a situation on their lives. The play was an initiative of Project Humanity and has toured in Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and Calgary. The play’s major purpose was to bring to light the blight of over 65,000 homeless Canadian youth. The proceeds of the March 15th evening were donated to the Threshold Housing Society. The Society expresses its gratitude to the Belfry Theatre, Project Humanity and the wonderful cast of actors who performed this important play.
Youth Homelessness is a Canadian issue. Spearheaded by the Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, and Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, there is a concerted effort to have November 17th acclaimed Youth Homelessness Awareness in Canada. Currently there is an estimated 65,000 homeless youth in the country. Last year a survey of 1000 Canadians was conducted by the charitable arm of the Virgin Group to specifically investigate people’s understanding about the issue. The survey showed that 87 per cent of the respondents didn’t have an understanding of the scope of the problem. To learn more, please watch the following:
The Threshold Housing Society held a fundraising event in conjunction with Langham Court Theatre on March 3, 2011. A reception with a silent auction was held prior to the opening night of a play entitled “The Lady in the Van,” by Allen Bennett. The play is centered on the true story of the relationship between the author and a homeless woman who camped in the author’s garden for fifteen years. The performance was superb with a wonderful cast that captured with heart the author’s complex message about homelessness and our response as a society to this difficult problem. Special thanks to the Theatre Manager, Denise Brown, whose professional and courteous assistance made this an enjoyable evening for everyone.
February 22, 2011 marks the first year anniversary of Mitchell House’s new location in the Oak Bay vicinity. The new location and house is fabulous. The floor plan is spacious and the kitchen area central. The House Mentor, Graham Kelly, celebrated the anniversary with a house meeting and a big cake. The anniversary coincides with the arrival of two new residents. Rick Sandberg is the Weekend Mentor at Mitchell House and also our Webmaster. Congratulations Graham and Rick.
Many thanks to the volunteers from London Drugs who donated their time and muscle to dig up the sod and stake out a garden at Holly House. The vision is to have a sustaining vegetable garden in the sunny backyard of the house supplying the residents with fresh greens. On hand to help from Threshold were Roger Plant (left) and Rebekah Humphrey (second from left). Many thanks to Lilaine Galway, Community Impact Associate for the United Way who organized and assisted in having the awesome volunteers from London Drug pitch in and assist at-risk youth.
On February 12, The Threshold Housing Society was invited to participate in the annual Volunteer Fair sponsored by Hillside Mall. Mr. Bob Porter, Treasurer, and Mrs. Kyra Henry, the Administrative Assistant, were on hand to inform and educate shoppers and the public about the work of the society in the community.
The Society is currently enlisting volunteers for its Mardi Gras event to be held in 2012. If you are interested in volunteering for either the planning committee or working committee, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Valentine's cupcakes were part of graduation celebration. (Photo by Peggy English)
Valentine’s Day (actually February 10, 2011) was the perfect occasion to have a party and to say good-bye to one of our residents who has been residing in Mitchell House for just under a year. Having worked hard to complete his school diploma, our resident found a good job and felt ready to live independently. Congratulations and best wishes!
Flanked by Rebekah Humphrey, House Mentor for Holly House, and Graham Kelly, House Mentor for Mitchell House, our resident holds a quilt that each resident receives upon leaving. Each quilt is a work of beauty, hand stitched with love, and a reminder that care and compassion comes from many directions to help each of us along the away. The quilt is also a symbol of sanctuary, that we each need a warm house, apartment, room, or cosy corner to call our own, where we can feel safe, regenerate our energies and dream our dreams for the future.
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