There is no place like home for the holidays, but for youth experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in our region, home is not an option.
Youth Haven’s Boxes of Hope campaign has been launched and executive director Lucy Gowers is confident the community will continue to support these kids so they can celebrate Christmas.
“Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people. But I think it’s an especially difficult time for our youth who have no family or place that they can call home. By having the community purchase a gift for them to open on Christmas morning, this will truly show them that somebody has taken the time to care,” says Gowers.
People can purchase a box for $50. The money raised from each purchase will go to buy items that the youth need. Gowers says this can include bus tokens, gift cards, toiletries, hygiene products, winter clothing, as well as books and supplies for kids who are in school.
Youth Haven is Simcoe County’s only youth shelter for those between the ages of 16 and 24. It’s estimated one in three people using emergency shelters in Simcoe County are youth.
COVID-19 has presented challenges for Youth Haven. Due to health and safety guidelines, youth and staff were moved from the emergency shelter to a hotel in April. Outreach teams in Orillia, Barrie and Simcoe County have been able to maintain contact with at-risk youth while still following social distancing protocols.
“Christmas is going to look totally different,” says Gowers. “Last year, pre-Covid, the kids came to a common place and they were able to open up their gifts and spend time with each other and with our staff. This season they’re going to wake up on Christmas morning in their room and on their own. We want to make Christmas for them as happy as possible. We want to be able to provide them with that togetherness and family environment, and this is why we look to our community to help support us.”
In 2019, the Boxes of Hope campaign raised over $17,000.