Sleep Out: Champions Edition raises over $450,000 to support youth experiencing homelessness and trafficking

The morning after Sleep Out: Champions Edition the air was filled with the energy of nearly 100 caring, action-oriented individuals from across the Greater Toronto Area who gave up their beds for a night and slept outside to help ensure young people experiencing homelessness and trafficking can get the care and support they need at Covenant House Toronto.

Throughout the rainy night, participants explored our facilities, connected with Covenant House youth and staff over a meal served by youth alumni of our Cooking for Life job readiness program and learned about the more than 6,000 youth who experience homelessness every night across this country.

They also got to see firsthand – by way of a guided tour - the comprehensive wrap-around services such as medical care, counselling, education, job skill development and support for those experiencing homelessness and trafficking, the Covenant House Toronto team provides anyone aged 16-24 who needs support.

Youth shared their stories of what brought them to Covenant House Toronto, including some of the traumas they faced, and they spoke about how our team helped them to have hope to see and move towards the brighter, happier futures they deserve.

First time sleeper and Next Gen Council member Justin Ricketts was moved by the keynote speech delivered by Ram Villardo, Covenant House’s pastoral and spiritual care advisor focused on how he helps youth develop confidence and keep hope for the future through the martial art practice of Muay Thai. “It was insightful,” he said. “I really liked the message – the way he walks alongside youth and keep giving the youth something to fight for. I really connected with that.”

Participants also really enjoyed the breakout group activity which helped them consider the many difficult decisions and challenges young people experiencing homelessness might have to navigate while living on the streets before arriving at Covenant House Toronto

At the end of the evening, as she prepared her sleeping bag laid out atop a slab of cardboard, Melanie Deighton, the Resident Experience Coordinator at Canary Landing  and member of Team Tricon Residential, was feeling reflective. The first-time sleeper was moved by what she learned on the tour about the family counselling work that Covenant House does with youth.

“It was a lightbulb moment for me when I realized that someone I recently lost, who had experienced homelessness and that if he’d been able to go somewhere like Covenant House and get proper help in his youth from someone like Ram, and provided innovative counselling, he would probably still be here.”

The next morning, she described the whole experience as “definitely eye-opening, realizing just how cold you get despite the weather not being that cold for this time of year.”

She is already making plans to come back next year.

“I’m really lucky because I get to go home, but someone else has to find somewhere else to stay the next night where they will hopefully be safe.”

More than a shelter, Covenant House meets the immediate needs of young people by providing food and shelter and offers wraparound healthcare services, counselling and programs and services to help young people aged 16-24 move back into the community to live independently.