On May 4, nearly 200 professionals and community members gave up their beds for a night to help ensure that young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness or being trafficked can receive life-changing care and support at Covenant House. Together, they raised awareness about the complex realities that these young people face. They also raised over $700,000 to help ensure youth have a safe place to stay as they work towards building stable and rewarding lives.
This was Behi Shafiei’s first time participating in Sleep Out: Champions Edition, but it won’t be her last. “What an experience!. I’m hooked on doing whatever is in my power to help end homelessness for youth.”
Behi wasn’t alone. In fact, this year’s event saw a record number of participants with 24 teams and 169 individuals in total.
The evening began with dinner prepared and served by youth enrolled in our Cooking for Life program, which prepares young people for entry-level employment in the food services industry. Attendees later participated in a tour of Covenant House and learned how we support young people by helping ensure their immediate needs like food and housing are met. Participants also visited our on-site medical centre, which is often the first point of entry for youth coming to Covenant House, and learned about our unique approach in helping youth develop wellness skills as they prepare for independent living.
Jean Yang is a first-time Sleeper and says she was very impressed by everything she saw and learned on the tour. “They are not using a cookie cutter process. Covenant House caters to each unique need, they really listen and get to know each youth’s story. I found it very inspiring.”
A highlight of the evening was hearing directly from our program staff about how a health and wellness approach is woven into all our work. As part of the agenda, a panel discussion was held to highlight our unique approach to helping support young people at a challenging time in their life.
As Elisa Simpson, the Manager of Health Care Services and one of the panelists, explained: “Of course things like medicine and blood work and tests are important to health outcomes. But the most important place that healing happens is in supportive relationships and that’s really what we strive to create. Our health care clinic is unique because as soon as you walk through the door you’ll be offered coffee, tea, a bite to eat, and we give you a place to sleep if you’ve been out on the street all night. We really try to meet people’s basic needs first before we jump into whatever their health care needs are.”
A big thank you to all our sleepers for your ongoing commitment to supporting young people in our community on their path to the bright future they deserve.