Students from Queen’s University and the Royal Military College are providing essentials for youths experiencing homelessness in Kingston, Ont. through a knapsack and supplies program.
Queen’s University student Celina Lovisotto and her team at Bags of Promise made their first delivery of supplies to the Kingston Youth Shelter on Saturday.
“Our goal is to provide these youth with reusable bags filled with basic necessities that they may lack,” she says.
Lovisotto co-founded the ‘Bags of Promise’ group in the spring of 2021 with her friend Brooke Baker.
It was Baker’s personal experience with homelessness while living in Calgary that inspired the project.
“I always look up to Brooke and think that if she can get to the same point that I can with … not having as many resources, then everybody should be able to do it,” Lovisotto says.
“We should be able to start to close this divide and have these conversations early on.”
According to the United Way of KFL&A, there is still significant divide.
One in five people living in Canada’s homeless shelters is young, and that number has historically been higher in Kingston — one in three people.
However, the United Way’s 2021 report on youth homelessness shows the numbers getting better, and efforts like this program do help.
The team of students from Queen’s and RMC delivered 30 knapsacks filled with essentials, all donated by businesses and local community members.
“It’s really lovely to see a group of people, the same age as the people that access our system … taking a keen interest in people that are not maybe as fortunate as they are,” says the shelter’s Executive Director Anne Brown.
Brown says a lot of the shelter’s clients come to them in a time of crisis, with only the clothes on their backs.
“They come to us for many a variety of reasons and this just takes one burden off of their shoulders.”
Shelter Manager Catherine Oxford says these donations allow the young people to attend classes and live their lives with the same resources as their peers.
“It’s really hard to focus on bigger goals when you don’t have your basic needs being met,” Oxford says.
The student-led Bags of Promise organization continues to accept donations, with plans to provide more bags to the shelter by the spring.