Youth homelessness is an issue that can sometimes fall through the cracks, so the United Way has decided to do something about it.
The organization has coordinated a youth council that provides input into local initiatives, which includes youth homelessness.
The goal of the summit is to raise awareness surrounding the issue, and identify what could potentially lead kids to being homeless.
“As part of increasing awareness and focusing on prevention, youth have told us how important it is to bring them together around issues they and their friends face,” says Bhavana Varma, President and CEO of the United Way.
Some of the teens involved in the youth council were actually homeless themselves at certain points throughout their childhood.
They feel that their first-hand experience can add valuable perspective to the subject.
“There was a time for about a month that I was sleeping in between office buildings,” says Oliver Hill, a member of the council. “I also had to resort to couch surfing for a while when I was searching for a place.”
“Due to my past issues with homelessness and mental health, I really feel like I can help other people because I know exactly what they’re going through.”
The topics the summit covered were mental health, financial literacy, interview and communication skills, substance use and conflict resolution.
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The topics were addressed by playing games like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
This is the fifth year the summit has taken place in Kingston.
“It’s amazing seeing all of these kids come together for a common goal,” says Varma, “I find that the youth are so welcoming and accepting of one another, and it’s rewarding to see it all happening right here.”