As you know, I encountered some homeless kids on the streets of St. Catharines on Thursday morning.
I spent a significant portion of my time on Thursday and Friday, stopping by to check on them, bringing them food, and learning more about them. From the get-go, I was painfully aware that the little bit I was doing wasn’t anything close to what they need.
One of the boys I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry is now staying at the local youth shelter, so our efforts since last night have focused on the young couple.
To recap: they are both 17 years old; they’ve both disclosed abuse and that they have had extremely difficult home lives; neither of them have finished high school; she has some documented developmental challenges; it is likely that he does as well; they both use pot; due to past trauma, she feels strongly that she has to stay with him (“I only feel safe sleeping beside him”); and she is pregnant.
I’ve said this to numerous people over the last few days: As far as being difficult to house goes, they seem to check every single box.
Following yesterday’s blog entry, which I didn’t want to write, but am so relieved I did, we have been able to secure them a motel room (which is being paid for day by day, as people offer financial assistance for that), provide them with a home-cooked hot meal (dropped off to them at the motel), and a friend and I are on our way to meet them at Giant Tiger to put them into clean clothes from head to toe. We’ve also been able to collect a few clothing items, some personal hygiene products, prenatal vitamins for her, some more food (you’ve never seen two kids so grateful for fruit in your whole life), and a couple of sleeping bags.
A couple of sleeping bags.
Because let’s be honest here. The very small (though mighty) army of us who have been helping these kids are painfully aware that this is temporary.
Without services that fit their very complicated needs, these kids are very likely to end up right back where I found them.
I’ve already had to tell her that the kindness of strangers has its very real limits. All told, it is a dozen private citizens who have gone out of their way to help these kids these last few days.
In a city of more than 130,000 people, 12 have stepped up. Twelve people have acknowledged a problem and that these kids (regardless of your thoughts on their circumstances and how they got into them) need our help. And every single one of us, again, is painfully aware that this is a very temporary solution.
Right now, I’ve been sent enough money that we can keep that motel room for them until Tuesday morning. After that, I don’t know what’s going to happen to them, and I can’t afford to sink anymore of my own financial resources into feeding them. And I feel terrible for saying that.
But there are people in this community who have far more financial capacity and far more decision-making power who can do something. I’ve not heard from any of them.
People have been asking me what they need and it’s a difficult question to answer. They need clothing and food and sleeping bags, yes.
What they really need is a roof over their heads, medical care, and to not have to question where their next meal is going to come from.
And I don’t know if or how that’s going to happen for them. It is still a very real possibility that these kids are going to fall right through the cracks.
Make no mistake about this. Everything we’re doing right now – as extremely necessary as it is – is simply a band-aid on this enormous problem.