Michael Seater has lived, worked and played in Toronto his entire life. He filmed his starring role in the hit Family Channel show “Life with Derek” here and is now a fixture in the city’s film industry, directing and producing for clients such as Holt Renfrew.
Like many Torontonians, he found himself troubled by the joint housing and mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. When he learned of the work Covenant House does to provide not just shelter to young people experiencing homelessness and trafficking, but wraparound supports, he knew the need has never been greater and he wanted to help.
“Covenant House doesn’t just say ‘Here’s a bed for a night and a meal.’ They want that to be the doorway to a set of stairs that help you on life’s path toward stability.”
Michael joined Covenant House’s Next Generation council and is currently raising money for his very first Sleep Out, an annual fundraiser in which participants trade in their beds for a piece of cardboard as they spend a night sleeping on the streets in support of Covenant House.
He wants to draw attention to the fact that 30% of youth who are homeless identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. Family rejection is the most common cause of homelessness for this population, and they are also far more likely to struggle with mental health challenges.
“As a queer person, I want to be there for these youth, I want to support in the ways that I can and help to lift them out of their situation and ignite their potential,” he added.
Michael is grateful to those who’ve supported his Sleep Out fundraising campaign thus far and feels the approach is effective in stoking empathy in donors who, in some ways, are being asked to confront the idea of their friend or loved one sleeping outside in potentially inclement weather.
Thinking ahead to the May 4 Sleep Out: Champions Edition, has given him moments of deep perspective. For example, during a recent rainstorm, he thought “Well, what if it’s raining that night?”
The next thought came quickly: youth experiencing homelessness don’t have the luxury of planning for the weather. It drove home for him exactly why he is choosing to give up his bed for a night to support Covenant House – so the agency can continue their vital work in providing youth a safe place to stay and the help they need to work towards the life they want.