Toques provide warmth for homeless and at-risk youth
In Edmonton, Alberta, approximately 29% of individuals who are experiencing or are at-risk of experiencing homelessness are aged 24 or younger (2014 Homeless Count). Lacking support and facing instability, most dropped out of school and struggle to get out of their current situations. In 2014, a group of agencies dedicated to helping youths stepped up. YEG Youth Connect was born. It’s one of the city’s all-in-one-location events designed to bring together resources specifically for youth experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness. Last year, YEG Youth Connect shared branded toques that the organization received as part of a 4imprint one by one® grant.
Providing warmth for the harsh winter
YEG Youth Connect formed after seeing the barriers youth face as they try to get help. Quite often, youth would be referred to several agencies and would have to tell their story multiple times. To break down these barriers, organization founders designed the event as a collaboration among youth service agencies. They gather in one location for one afternoon to make is easy for Edmonton’s youth to find information and make connections.
“Every year, we welcome more than 35 youth service providers willing to help with their services, from hairdressers to cultural connections, employment to post-secondary institutions. All the resources for the youth community are here in one place,” said Michael Peters, committee chair for the YEG Youth Connect event.
A key difference between youth and adults when it comes to homelessness is that young people don’t always realize their situation. They don’t think they are homeless or at risk of homelessness as long as “they have a friend’s couch to sleep on.” YEG Youth Connect focuses on helping individuals aged 13 to 29 obtain housing, finish school, find a job and connect with indigenous leaders, in order to give them a chance to start fresh.
“At the beginning of the event, each attendee receives a care kit. It includes essential items, such as a water bottle, personal hygiene items, socks and can be used to collect key resources while they visit the service providers present. For the first time last year, we were able to provide branded, warm, good-looking toques. We are always so happy to receive donations, but we don’t get to choose or customize them. The toque giveaways were definitely a great addition to the kit!” Peters said.
An event creating hope for a better future
Every year, Peters and the team work hard to make the event better. From 60 young people the first year to close to 280 in 2017, attendance averages around 200 each year. YEG Youth Connect has built its network rapidly. As they make their way through the event, the young people forge connections with agencies, and most leave the event with a plan for the future. YEG Youth Connect has identified the need to provide a hearty, healthy meal to all young people that attend.
“Winters in Edmonton are very tough. The event happens every September, before winter hits, so that we have ways to educate and connect youth to necessary resources that help them plan for the upcoming winter. As they keep wearing the toques to stay warm, we hope it is a reminder for them to keep using the event’s services for a better future.” Peters explained.
A note from Cheryl:
We are humbled to help YEG Youth Connect and the youth they serve. We wish them all the best as they keep youth warm with branded toques and work to give them a brighter future. For more information on our grant program, visit onebyone.4imprint.ca.