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Safe Suites for Homeless Youth

Staff from A Way Home and Domino’s recently came to Urban Systems’ Kamloops office to personally deliver a thank you to volunteers who spent a winter night outdoors raising money for homeless youth.

“Kira Cheeseborough, a youth advisor for A Way Home, painted a lovely picture for us,” says Deb Press. “Cassia McLean, a human services practicum student with A Way Home, wrote us a couple of thank you notes for the effort we put in with our pledges and commitment.”

Left to right: Cassia McLean, Katherine McParland, Deb Press, Kira Cheeseborough and Cameron Gatey

On December 15, 2017, Deb Press, Robert D’Amours, Cameron Gatey and Matt Smith were among 60 volunteers participating in the Domino’s Campout for Homeless Youth. Amid freezing temperatures, they settled in at a parking lot in Kamloops’ North Shore as a fundraising initiative for A Way Home, an organization that believes it is possible and imperative to prevent and end youth homelessness in Canada. Domino’s donated 1,000 pizzas which people could purchase for $10 with all sales proceeds going toward the creation of safe suites for homeless youth.

Left to right: Katherine McParland, Cameron Gatey, Robert D’Amours, Del Press, Deb Press and Matt Smith

Each night, approximately 7,000 youth between the ages of 13 and 25 sleep either outdoors or in emergency shelters across Canada.

Some years ago, a former youth who went through the foster care system and became a professional working for a social service agency, initiated a plan to form a committee to increase housing options for youth as they turned 19. The vision was shared by colleagues, and membership interest grew into a national coalition that was named A Way Home. The first pilot site was selected in Kamloops in 2012. Now, the organization offers programs that address youth homelessness in 10 communities. (Read a recent interview regarding the launch in Kelowna.)

The organization has various objectives and fundraising initiatives throughout the year. This campout was a challenge that particularly appealed to Deb Press.

“We were well supported, so it wasn’t as difficult as it would be if we were genuinely homeless,” says Deb, who got there early in order to get a good box to spend the night in. “Large appliance boxes were available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some people brought tents and sleeping bags, but I wanted to get an experience that was closer to the reality of the conditions that the homeless must survive in.” Even so, Deb made sure she had several layers of clothing and a warm drink. She actually even managed to get a bit of sleep.

As an avid volunteer in her first year at Urban Systems, Deb has already participated in many of the Foundation initiatives offered through Urban Systems’ Kamloops branch.

“I really enjoy being a part of these meaningful events, learning about the needs of certain groups and helping out where I can,” says Deb.

She intends to participate in the 2018 campout, too, but will arrive better prepared.

“Last time, the box collapsed on me as I got into it, so it was more like an extra blanket for me. Next time, I’ll set up earlier and bring duct tape or anything else that will make sure the box stands up.”

Domino’s Campout for Homeless Youth raised a grand total of $29,557.80.

Read a personal story about A Way Home’s manager, Katherine McParland.
Also visit Homeless Hub, a Canadian resource site for homelessness research and solutions.

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