Tree light-up in Bastion Square to shine light on youth homelessness

WatchWith the holidays just around the corner, it's easy to forget some won't have a home to celebrate in. One local group is shedding the light on young people who struggle with homelessness. Julian Kolsut reports.

Victoria’s Bastion Square looked like a slice of the north pole Saturday, but behind the bells and Christmas tunes is a deeper message.

The Threshold Housing Society hosted a Winter Carnival and tree light up, to shed the light on youth homelessness.

“We are here for our winter carnival, it’s kind of the cultivation for our shine the light on youth homelessness campaign, and those you wouldn’t expect to not have a home,” said Threshold’s Executive Director Colin Tessier.

“It’s meant to be a fun event and have meaning behind it, in term of highlighting the real crisis of youth homelessness in our community.”

Back in 2018 there were at least 156 homeless youth across Greater Victoria. But that number is probably much higher when you take into account those couch surfing or living with friends.

Emily Jackson at the young age of 14 was one of those experiencing something called “hidden homelessness.”

“I was in school, and I was a really good student, it was hard for teachers to even see the warning signs… and it’s difficult to come out there yourself and admit to what you are experiencing,” said Jackson.

Now, at the age of 21, Emily is advocating for better access to services for youth who are forced from home.

“Youth homelessness has been extremely underrepresented, even in the homelessness sector, there is not a lot of funding… so having an event like this forces the community to talk about it,” she said.

And even though it might be hard to spot youth homelessness, there are some steps you can take to see if youth you know might be struggling from living without a home.

“If a youth stops going to school, if a youth is always hungry and looking unfed, or if a youth is showing signs of depression and abuse, those are defiantly some warning signs,” said Jackson.

“I think its really important to have that awkward conversation just ask a youth how they are doing, and if they don’t feel conformable talking with you, I think there should be a duty to report.”

Around 4 p.m. the largest tree in the square was lit, as a beacon of hope for an important but often hidden conversation.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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