Spending the night in an alley, with nothing but the clothes on one’s back, a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard for a mattress is the reality for hundreds of people in Metro Vancouver and one few would choose, especially if they had a comfortable townhouse in Langley to go home to. But that’s exactly the scenario Chelsea Minhas expects to find herself in Thursday night.
“I’m very nervous. I don’t even camp… I can’t even describe how out my comfort zone this is for me, but if people can do it for nights on end, I’m sure I can survive it for one night,” she said.
Raising funds for Covenant House
Minhas, who has a four-year-old daughter, will be joined by 32 other moms from the region, as part of Sleep Out: Mothers Edition, organized by Covenant House Vancouver, an organization that works with homeless young people.
The event is a spin-off of the annual Sleep Out event, which has corporate executives and public figures spend a night on the streets.
Minhas has raised just under $2,000 of her $3,000 goal but the total greater goal of $75,000 has already been exceeded by $40,000.
Raising awareness and empathy
But Minhas said Sleep Out is about more than raising funds.
As the manager of Covenant House’s Rights of Passage program, Minhas already knows a lot about the kinds of challenges faced by homeless youth, but she said spending the night outside will foster more empathy.
“I think it’s really important for all the moms to have a firsthand experience. And by no means are we saying we’re going to know what it’s like to be homeless because we still get to bring the clothes that we want from home; We’re still going to get to go home to our warm showers the next day,” she said.
“Hopefully we can bring that… back to our community, back to [our] friends and family and get the word out about just how hard it is for these young people.”
Minhas said that in her community, Walnut Grove, it is sometimes tough to even convince her neighbours that youth homelessness is an issue.
“I tell them stories about how I’m actually right now working with a young person [whose] family is in Langley,” she said “This is an issue for Langley too; this is not a Downtown Eastside Vancouver issue.”