Editorial: Langley youth deserve large share of credit for shelter

Teenagers often get a bad rap. They are seen as lazy, rude and up to no good.

Nowadays, they seem even more detached from the world around them, with their heads permanently buried in the screens of their phones.

But something has happened in Langley to turn that stereotype on its head.

On Tuesday, ground was symbolically broken for the new youth homeless hub. Holding shovels and grinning for the camera were politicians and youth outreach workers — who definitely played a role in the financing and the nuts and bolts of the new youth shelter, which is expected to open this fall.

But the real driving force behind the youth safe house is Langley’s teens.

Word got out through Encompass Support Services Society that in 2015, more than 160 teens in Langley found themselves homeless at some point. It was a number that shocked students and spread through the hallways of local high schools.

Students from Brookswood Secondary, Walnut Grove and Mountain, to name a few, couldn’t believe so many of their peers didn’t have a safe place to rest their head at night.

Instead of throwing up their hands and feeling helpless, they took action.

And they were relentless — creating a committee of like-minded youth who wanted to ensure there was a safe place where homeless youth could go.

They organized awareness campaigns at community events with help from BSS teacher Lenny Yun and then they held a meeting at the school board office, gathering politicians and non-profit groups that deal with youth, and presented a case for building a shelter here specifically for youth.

They were eloquent, on point, prepared and they made the 100 people in the room step back and really listen.

It got the ball rolling in the minds of Township councillors and provincial MLAs.

The youth homeless task force didn’t stop there. These same teenagers, who didn’t previously know each other, put together a huge fundraising event at LEC, complete with bands, and a dunk tank for teachers and principals — raising $18,000.

Hundreds turned out.

Because of these teenagers’ efforts, there will be five beds, hot showers, a kitchen, and 15 different support service providers available to homeless Langley youth, including doctors and counsellors. Langley can finally say it is helping its homeless youth by providing them a safe place — all thanks to Langley’s youth.

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