Community leaders camp outside in a bid to end youth homelessness in Ottawa

The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) has rallied the community to raise awareness about young people on the streets.

It is a cold time of year to be sleeping outside, but Mayor Jim Watson and Chief of Police Charles Bordeleau aren’t too worried about the below freezing temperatures. That’s because they, along, with 12 teams and over 100 participants, have joined together over their concern for youth homelessness, to raise awareness and funds by sleeping outside the night of February 4 until this morning, February 5.

All agencies involved believe that ending youth homelessness in Ottawa demands a concentrated and coordinated effort.

Community members—as well as political and local business leaders involved include: Mayor Watson, MPP Yasir Naqvi, City Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Eli El-Chantiry, Dr. Isra Levy, John de Hooge, Anthony Di Monte, MPP Yasir Naqvi, Police Services Board member Adriana Doyle and YSB Executive Director Joanne Lowe. All are raising funds and awareness for the city’s most vulnerable—homeless youth.

“Even though we’ve spent the night in extremely cold conditions, sleeping outside is really more of a symbolic gesture,” says Dan Sabourin, Director of Community Services at YSB. “Most of all, we hope this brings awareness and hope to the community, and sends a clear message that we absolutely have to put an end to youth homelessness.”

There is an estimated 65,000 homeless youth across the country, with close to 1000 living on the streets of Ottawa. Organizations that work directly with the homeless—YSB, the John Howard Society, Operation Come Home and Ottawa Salus—partnered together for this initiative to  make a powerful statement about what it really means be homeless in Ottawa. Funds raised will benefit these agencies, who work directly with the homeless youth population in Ottawa.

The event got under way on Monday evening, with tents and sleeping bags set up for the night on City Hall grounds.

The event culminated with a breakfast, sponsored by Bell, and the city’s kick-off to Toque Tuesday. A national campaign to end youth homelessness, Toque Tuesday is an annual event spearheaded by Raising the Roof.

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