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Homeless youth in Oceanside

Societal problem hits hard on younger residents

Can homeless youth truly be in our Oceanside area? 

In B.C., there are more than 300 known homeless youth, and it is uncertain for how many are unaccounted. 

Certain images come to mind when the word homeless comes into context. However, a variety of different situations are present. Images of people walking with their belongings tends to be a common thought regarding homeless. 

The general definition for a person who is homeless is when one has “inadequate access to conventional shelter, in particularly at night.” 

Simply living in a house which is considered unsafe, for instance there are threats of violence, can make one homeless. 

Some are more commonly found  in abandoned buildings, with a group or simply on the street. Some may have found a form of crisis-housing or move between friends and families houses, or couch-hopping. 

In our community, most drift off the main roads and into so-called sanctuaries where bedding and/or tents can be set up for the night. 

During colder seasons; take a moment to notice those who loiter in the middle of the night around fast-food restaurants. Restaurant Hoppers, as they are known, keep warm by staying up in one restaurant until it closes, only to move to the nearest  open one. 

Many people are unaware, or blind to youth who live on the streets of Parksville. 

Most youth interviewed, have explained their choice to live on the streets was due to an “unhealthy” living situation, loop-holes in government support, incapable guardians, or a lack of availability elsewhere. 

Locally, there are few programs for homeless youth.  If people who are capable can step up and help in some way, fewer youth would be living with such difficulties. 

Options for individuals include becoming an adoptive parent, foster parent, or simply providing a safe place to stay for those rough nights.  Alternately, people can volunteer in the community with the wonderful people at the Salvation Army, Society of Organized Services or soup kitchens. 

There are many ways to help the homeless youth of Oceanside but the first step is to notice, then find ways to make the un-accessible, accessible.

— Amanda Tornai is a KSS student.