WESTVILLE – Pictou County Roots for Youth Society is hoping a fun event with a serious message will bring people out of the comfort of their homes for an evening to raise awareness of those without one.
Pictou County Roots for Youth Society has already begun building and decorating cardboard homes in preparation of “Homeless for a Night” later this month. Dave Conrod, project co-ordinator, stands with one of the shelters for the event. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS
The not-for-profit organization will be hosting “Homeless For a Night” later this month in Westville. It strives to educate citizens about homelessness in the area and the services available to them as well as provide a night of entertainment.
“We’re trying to make it as fun as possible,” Dave Conrod, project co-ordinator for Roots for Youth, says.
Roots House will be building their box city on Sept. 21 at Victoria Park.
Conrod wants to include other groups that deal with aspects of homelessness.
He hopes to have those groups speak between 6 and 8 p.m. that evening to send the message that there are places to turn.
This isn’t the first time a group has hosted an event like this, but it is a first for Roots for Youth.
Often, they’re organized as a fundraiser, but Conrod says he’s not interested in that at the moment.
“For us right now, the message is more important.”
Similar events have been met with criticism as not depicting what homelessness is really like. Conrod says a taste of reality is not the intention.
“We’re not looking to say what we’re doing is anything like the conditions people are in.”
Conrod says youth are using their emergency accommodation and other services on a regular basis.
He says numbers should increase when winter rolls around.
They offer hot meals, a place to shower, free laundry facilities, counselling, health services and more to those in need.
“Homeless for a Night” wants to make sure everyone is aware that they have options if they’re going through a difficult time.
The schedule for the night hasn’t been fully established, but Conrod is planning to have games and music.
People are encouraged to make their own box house and decorate it as they see fit. They also have the option of pitching a tent.
People are limited in what they can bring. “Think about the decisions a homeless person must make,” the event says.
Alcohol, drugs and entertainment devices with the exception of cellphones are among the items not permitted.
Set-up begins at 4 p.m. It’s free and everyone is welcome to attend, whether they can stay the night or not.
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Research: Pictou County Roots for Youth Society website
“Homeless Youth Project: Final Report,” a study in 2003, showed 40 per cent of youth believed homelessness was an issue in Pictou County, while 20 per cent knew someone homeless
The 2009 report, “Mapping Homelessness in Rural Nova Scotia: A Study of Community Resources,” revealed the majority of those interviewed believed homelessness was ongoing or growing in Pictou County
The same report showed interviewees thought homeless were most likely to be couch surfing (temporarily staying with friends, family or strangers)