Students from local high schools are on a youth homelessness task force.

Youth homelessness is an invisible problem

Students want to see a facility to help homeless youth.

A dozen local students aren’t waiting for others to solve a problem they seen around them every day in school and their community.

They are hosting an open house on April 6 about youth homelessness.

And they want to see an emergency facility for young people.

“The reality, youth homelessness in Langley is a very serious, and yet seemingly invisible problem,” said student Elliot Cluney. “Many are aware that there are youth out there who don’t have a warm bed or a safe place to stay but think they are taken care of in Langley.”

But those under 19 can’t access most services for the homeless.

A homelessness study showed 162 youth in this community were without a roof over their heads last year.

“This doesn’t include the undocumented youth that couch surf and don’t become part of the system,” Cluney noted.

The issues aren’t new. A 2008 Action Plan that helped convince the community about the need for Gateway called for a youth safe house.

Right now, local youths have to be taken into government care to get help or have to go to Surrey or Abbotsford for a place to sleep.

“It is surprising to see that in 2014, youth under the age of 25 account for over 20 per cent of the homeless population in Langley,” noted teacher Lenny Yun, who is working with the student task force.

Young homeless people are easy to overlook because they are not out on the streets begging. Many struggle to get homework done and get to school on time when they don’t know where they will sleep at night. School is often where they can find safety.

The youth homelessness task force open house takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. April 6 at the Langley School District office, 4875 222nd St.

The students on the youth homelessness task force, who attend R.E. Mountain Secondary, Aldergrove Community Secondary, Brookswood Secondary, Langley Secondary and the district’s Vanguard program, have meet a handful of times this school year to raise awareness of the issues and a car crush fundraiser.

The students have made presentations to various local agencies and others such as the Langley Sunrise Rotary Club, the Langley Rotary Club, and Stepping Stone Community Services. They are scheduling a meeting with the Langley District PAC as well.

Gateway of Hope representatives attended the student task force’s last planning meeting.

Homeless Youth Don’t Matter to Langley

by Elliot Cluney, Langley student

It’s a Saturday night, you are just off the phone with the third friend you’ve tried calling, and again it’s the same answer: no!

For the past two and half hours you’ve been frantically looking for a place to spend the night.

You are currently on your way to the Gateway of Hope in Langley, to try for the second time this month for a place to stay. As you walk up to the door, you already know the answer you’re about to face. Another no.

This is due to a factor way out of your control. You are youth; you are under the age of 19 and nowhere in your community offers a safe and warm place for you to spend the night. If you are under the age of 19, Langley has zero beds for homeless youth.

I don’t think anyone would agree it’s okay for youth in Langley to be homeless.

I also don’t think people probably know that this is even an issue in Langley. The reality, youth homelessness in Langley is a very serious, and yet seemingly invisible problem.

Many are aware that there are youth out there who don’t have a warm bed or a safe place to stay but think they are taken care of in Langley. Many homeless youth are actually in school during the day so kids are not often seen on the streets.

Did you know that just last year 162 youth were known to be homeless in Langley (Encompass, 2015). This doesn’t include the undocumented youth who couch surf and don’t become part of the system.

It is a large number of kids. That alone is sad. What is worse is that our community doesn’t care enough about us to make us space in our own community. If I need a bed; I have to go to Surrey or Abbotsford. How does this make me feel? I feel that the youth don’t matter in Langley.

Solutions? We need to let our community know that Langley youth do matter.

Youth homelessness is an issue that affects us personally and our friends across all schools in the district.

We are a group of extremely passionate and motivated Langley School District students who have formed a social justice task force in Langley to create awareness about youth homelessness in Langley and to ask our communities: The Township of Langley and the City of Langley to show support by offering permanent, safe housing for those in need.

An invitation to you:

Join our student team April 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Langley School Board office boardroom to have an open casual discussion about Langley’s Youth Homelessness.

The Conversation Café is open for anyone with an interest in youth homelessness or anyone who wants to learn more about the topic.

Tea/coffee and sweets will be served.

Please help us make Langley a safe place for our youth, our brothers, sisters, and our grandchildren. Help us “Be the Change” and let’s speak for those in need.

 

 

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