Shelly, a 23-year-old mother of a two two-year-old boy, used to be one of them.
When she was a teenager, she made her bed with discarded newspapers that she found in TTC stations. Her shower was a public washroom sink, the same place where she washed her clothes and got her drinking water.
For seven years, Shelly was a homeless youth.
At age 15, she ran away from an abusive home. She learned quickly that living on the streets was almost as hard as living at home.
“When it was just me on the street, before pregnancy, nobody gave a crap about me. Shelters for individuals are always full and even if there’s room you can’t stay there long enough to get yourself together,” she said. “It’s like people just don’t know what to do with runaways. They assume we’re all on drugs, but a lot of us are just confused and scared.”
Shelly and other homeless youth are the reason that Virgin Mobile’s ”RE*Generation Movement” staged a petition signing at Yonge and Dundas Square on Nov. 17. The petition signatories want to see that date officially recognized as ”National Youth Homelessness Awareness Day.”
Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett submitted the motion on Oct. 27 to the House of Commons. She said that getting this recognized as a national day will finally draw attention to a serious issue on Canadian streets.
“In this rich country, the fact that 65,000 young Canadians are homeless and on the streets is embarrassing and sad,” she said. “We also want to have an opportunity once a year to think about some of the root causes of homelessness.”
Erica Faltous, pro-social manager for Virgin Mobile Canada, added that the only way to find real solutions for youth homelessness is to get the word out to Canadians.
“The reality is that nine out of 10 people don’t know that the problem is that big,” she said. “We’re looking to build up that support so we can end youth homelessness.”
Shelly now lives in a shelter for abused mothers and their children. She’s glad that people are finally taking a stand on behalf of the kids she left behind on the streets. She still but she thinks it’ll take more than a national day to solve the problem.
“The only reason why I’m in a long-term shelter is because I have a son. If it was just me, I’d be out there somewhere,” she said.