Students will go hungry and sleep in boxes, rain or shine, to raise awareness for homelessness in Terrace this Friday.
Seventeen-year-old organizer Jessica McCallum-Miller is concerned about what she calls a lack of support for the homeless youth in the community.
The Youth Emergency Services Society had attempted to open a home on the 4500 block of Park Ave. to offer at-risk youth a safe place for shelter and services, but money was never found to support the program and the home burned down last year.
“None of the youth who were supposed to live there got to,” McCallum-Miller said.
McCallum-Miller, fellow students, a few chaperones and anyone from the community interested in joining the demonstration will gather at the gazebo along millennium trail from noon this friday until noon Saturday.
A petition will be there, and McCallum-Miller urged those who don’t want to participate in the famine to drop by the gazebo and add their signature.
She said the petition will later be presented to city council, urging it to recognize and address the problem of homeless youth here.
It is an issue that is close to McCallum-Miller’s heart.
She knows youth who have been, or are, homeless.
“I’m one quarter native, my grandmother is full native,” she said.
“I see people coming into this world overwhelmed.
“They don’t know where to go. They were misguided.”
She said that by opening a youth shelter and offering free counselling services, she hopes it will help homeless youth begin to heal, and give them a chance to access education.
“It would let them know that they are not blamed for the things they never knew.
“They don’t have a chance to even go to my school and I think that’s devastating,” she said.
Kathy Bell, a chaperone to the event and teacher at Parkside Secondary School where McCallum-Miller attends, said that homelessness is an issue the students there see daily.
“There are many couch surfing [at Parkside Secondary],” Bell said. “So I think the students in our school are more aware of [homelessness].”
Bell said there is concern amongst staff at the school about the lack of youth shelter in town.
“We feel powerless a lot of the time,” she said.
“Jessica took on this issue and she ran with it. She is very passionate.”
Bell will provide water to those who participate in the famine, said McCallum-Miller.
Independently, Parkside Secondary School started a breakfast program this year to feed couch-surfing students before school.
Breakfast there begins at 8:30 a.m.