Give a Rainbow campaign collects colourful clothing for homeless LGBTQ youth

Watch above: Dr. Kris Wells and Emily Keating speak about the Give a Rainbow Campaign 

EDMONTON — Twenty to 40 per cent of homeless youth in Edmonton identify as LGBTQ. As a result, the University of Alberta is hoping to give them a helping hand this winter.

The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services has teamed up with the Youth Empowerment and Support Services for the Give a Rainbow Campaign. They’re asking the public to donate clothing of all colours of the rainbow to help vulnerable youth who need warm clothes to survive the winter.

“We want to show them that a community really cares about them and wants to keep them warm this winter,” said Dr. Kris Wells, director of programs & services with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services at the University of Alberta.

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“Every colour of the rainbow has a different meaning. For example, red is for life, green is to nurture, purple is for spirit. So we’re asking groups, individuals to pick your favourite colour of the rainbow and show these young people that we care about them, we want to support them.”

Wells says the number one reason for LGBTQ youth homelessness is family conflict.

“People say, ‘Does this really happen? – 21st century, 2014 – that families are throwing out their children for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity?’ And sadly, that is still a reality,” Wells said Sunday.

“When you lose the support of your family and then you go to school and school’s not a safe space for you, too often you end up on the streets.”

READ MORE: ‘We’re not there yet’: Kris Wells on sexual equality

YESS offers a number of support services for not only LGBTQ youth, but all homeless youth in Edmonton. YESS communications coordinator Emily Keating says on top of offering a warm, safe space, part of their job is to youth gain confidence in themselves and reinstill a sense of trust in others.

“Often what it comes down to is a sense of self worth and self efficacy that these kids have not had the chance to develop. They feel very alone, they feel very isolated, they feel very judged often,” said Keating.

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“We make such a big effort just to communicate that there are people out there who are wishing them well.”

A drop box has been set up in the main foyer of the U of A’s Faculty of Education building. Clothing and monetary donations can also be dropped off at YESS.

The Give a Rainbow Campaign runs until Nov. 22.

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