It’s going to be a long, cold night Friday, as a group of Huntsville youth prepares to sleep outside in a bid to raise awareness of youth homelessness in Huntsville.
“Youth homelessness is not seen as a big issue in our community,” said Marly Hogue, a grade 12 student at Huntsville High School and Chair of Huntsville Youth Council, which is spearheading the initiative. “But we could see some students struggling, even in our school; we wanted to help out in any way we could.”
Starting at about 5:30 Friday night December 23rd, Hogue and five others in the Huntsville Youth Council will gather at Civic Centre Square to settle in for the night. They will have with them some cardboard, tarps, and borrowed sleeping bags, in preparation for a night in which the temperature is forecasted to hit a low of -3 degrees. Well-wishers are encouraged to stop by and show their support.
“We want to spread the word, raise awareness, and erase the stigma around youth homelessness,” she said.
Hogue spoke to Huntsville Town Council about the group’s plan on Tuesday December 20, and the Council expressed its support.
The majority of homelessness among youth locally takes the form of “couch surfing,” Hogue notes, adding that research the group received from Muskoka Community Services indicates that a disproportionate percentage – about half – of homeless youth in the District are in the Huntsville area.
“You don’t see them in the streets,” she adds. “But they are not grounded, they don’t have a good home to go to.” Homelessness often comes about as a result of unstable home life and/or abuse, including substance abuse by the youth and/or other family members.