Last year, 162 Langley youth were reported as either homeless or at risk of being homeless.
For Meaghan Laycock, that’s 162 too many.
She is promoting the hashtag #SAFELangley – SAFE being an acronym for Shelters Are For Everyone.
A Brookswood Secondary student, Laycock is part of a local youth homelessness task force which has a goal of helping Langley youth who are struggling to find shelter.
The task force is made up of a group of between 15 and 20 Langley students, Laycock explained during the recent Langley Good Times Cruise-In, where the group spread its message and promoted a concert taking place this Saturday, Sept. 24.
Homeless youth aren’t visible in Langley, Laycock said.
“We’re raising awareness at this event today about youth homelessness in Langley, and trying to get the word out there. A lot of people don’t know about it,” Laycock noted at the Cruise-In. “We’re trying to get a shelter here in Langley because there isn’t a shelter. The closest [shelter] is in Surrey or Abbotsford.”
Laycock believes a youth shelter is within the realm of possibility.
“We’re all working as hard as we can to get the word out, to hopefully get the mayors to help us get a shelter here in Langley,” she said. “We really want to get a… concept where we would have counsellors and doctors right at our shelter so they [homeless youth] don’t have to travel across Langley. I definitely think this is something we can attain in hopefully one or two years.”
If a shelter is built, Laycock hopes it will be near the Langley City bus loop.
“Preferably somewhere here in downtown Langley but really anywhere we can get it would be awesome,” she added.
Langley School District superintendent Gord Stewart said the district is “extremely proud of the efforts of the Social Justice 35 student group and whole-heartedly supports them.”
“Social Justice 35 is a dedicated group of students from across the district that have identified a need in the community, and among their peers, and has been working to raise awareness of the local need for a youth shelter,” Stewart said, noting that the group has been working to create partnerships in the community with various agencies, as well as all levels of government including the City, Township, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) “to make this goal a reality.”
Stewart said through its teachers and support staff, the district supports at-risk students who are experiencing circumstances that may result in temporary homelessness.
“Many schools have breakfast programs that assist in situations where students may not otherwise have access to a meal for any number of reasons,” Stewart said.
Sounds of awareness
On Saturday, the youth task force in partnership with the Langley School District Foundation, Langley School District, and Encompass, is holding an outdoor concert to raise funds and awareness for homeless youth in Langley.
The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Willoughby Community Field next to the Langley Events Centre, and features Daniel Wesley, Her Brothers, Robyn and Ryleigh, school jazz bands, and Vitality Dance Group, to name a few.
It also includes dozens of booths, games, activities, and food.
Brookswood Secondary teacher Lenny Yun hopes with increased public awareness, “there will be more pressure on local government and the shelter will become a reality for Langley at-risk youth.”
As well as music, the day but will also have community and school booths that will have a “fair” like component, Yun said.
“Everything from a dunk tank featuring our local RCMP and Langley administrators, to community/school booths that will have interactive games like a jeopardy wheel, ring toss, golf challenge, and hockey shot,” Yun said.
“There will also be a great barbecue going where all proceeds will go to the future shelter. It should be a fun day and we are hoping for a big turnout.”
Minimum donation at the event is $2 for youth and $4 for adults.