Natasha Boorman, left, and her mother, right, during last year’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk. (Submitted photo)

Natasha Boorman, left, and her mother, right, during last year’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk. (Submitted photo)

Qualicum Beach woman walks to raise awareness for unhoused LGBTQ youth

‘You can’t really change things like this unless people know that it’s an issue’

On ‘the coldest night of the year,’ one Qualicum Beach woman will walk to raise awareness for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.

The Coldest Night of the Year Oceanside is a fundraising walk hosted by the Island Crisis Care Society to raise donations for charities that serve people experiencing homelessness. This year a virtual walk will be held on Feb. 20.

While monetary donations are essential for the cause, to Natasha Boorman what is equally important is why she chose to participate.

“I intend to raise awareness for the LGBTQ youths that are unhoused, or at risk, or vulnerable,” she said. “And to acknowledge that we’re people and that we exist, and we face a lot of issues.”

LGBTQ people are over-represented in unhoused populations, in people with substance abuse and with people experiencing mental health issues, said Boorman.

“You can’t really change things like this unless people know that it’s an issue.”

On the Covenant House Vancouver website, it states that 25 to 40 per cent of unhoused youth identify as LGBTQ. A book titled Where Am I Going To Go?, published by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada, also states that 40 per cent of youth who experience homelessness identify as LGBTQ.

READ MORE: Coldest Night of the Year walk in Parksville goes virtual for 2021

However, in a report published in 2018 and conducted by the Oceanside Homelessness Task Force, only eight per cent of people experiencing homelessness in Parksville Qualicum Beach identified as LGBTQ. This report was based on a survey of 2,031 respondents. It should also be noted that 2,248 people chose not to respond, or “didn’t know.”

Boorman believes those numbers underestimate the actual LGBTQ population experiencing homelessness.

“I’ve noticed in the past that Oceanside has a very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude towards queer folk.”

Although she wouldn’t be surprised to see the identified numbers increase and the unidentified numbers decrease over the years.

“We are definitely seeing those number on the rise with the youth population as it becomes more acceptable to be openly queer,” she said.

While Boorman’s initial goal of $250 was met on Jan. 5, and currently stands at $485 as of Feb. 14, she said that every little bit helps people get the support they need.

For those interested in donating to Coldest Night of the Year Oceanside, they can do so at cnoy.org/location/oceansideparksville

Boorman’s donation page will remain open until Feb. 20.

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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