Executives set to sleep outside for homeless youth in Vancouver
A group of 15 local executives, entrepreneurs and public figures are set to try their hand at sleeping outside overnight as part of a fundraiser for homeless youth next week.
On November 15, the Sleep Out: Executive Edition event will see the participants use a sheet of cardboard as a bed and a parking garage as shelter in order to raise funds for Covenant House Vancouver's crisis program for youth.
“We have executives from a bank, and we’ve got an executive from an education institution, we have another executive from a Crown corporation, so it’s quite a range,” Krista Thompson, the executive director of Covenant House Vancouver, told the Straight by phone.
The participants include restaurant owner Mark Brand, professional snowboarder Justin Pasutto, BCIT president Don Wright, and Tim Collins of TD Waterhouse.
Thompson said the fundraiser, which falls on the 15th anniversary of the organization’s presence in Vancouver, is based on a similar CEO Sleep Out event held by the aid agency in New York City last year.
“It was the reaction of the young people themselves to the event in New York that actually got me excited about doing it here in Vancouver,” she recounted. “They think this is really cool.”
Covenant House runs a crisis program with beds for up to 54 youth, as well as a short-term residential stay program and a long-term, semi-independent residential program. Last year, the organization saw just over 1,500 youth use these services and its drop-in day programs, according to Thompson.
Services provided by the largely privately-funded organization include street outreach, addictions counselling and housing support out of its two Vancouver buildings, located in the Yaletown and Gastown areas.
“We try and walk alongside a young person and hopefully seal up any cracks in the system,” said Thompson. “So many people just fall through the cracks because the systems are hard to navigate.
“So that’s part of why we’ve designed the continuum of service the way we have, because we feel that it’s tough enough to be homeless, it’s tough enough to be a kid without a family or a kid that’s been in trouble, without having to learn how to navigate a big, bureaucratic system.”
Thompson herself also plans to take part in the sleep out, which will include a dinner with some of the youth at Covenant House, where the executives will get a chance to hear about their experiences.
“This is not going to be the same experience—I really get that,” noted Thompson. “Yeah, it’ll be cold and uncomfortable, but I won’t feel unsafe, there’ll be people around me. It’s not going to be the real thing. It’s going to be just a glimpse.”
The sleep out event will take place on Thursday, November 15. Similar fundraisers will be held on the same date in cities across North America, including New York and Toronto.