While researching the connections between homelessness and sex trafficking, I came across a video that caught my attention. In it, the homeless read mean tweets about homelessness.
While I’ve never intentionally been cruel to the homeless, I am most certainly guilty of indifference. I’m guilty of making quick assumptions, priding in self-righteousness, and shying away from uncomfortable encounters. I grieve the selfish condition of my heart.
Here’s the interesting thing. My passion to fight sex trafficking has led me to confront other issues that I’ve previously been complacent about. I’ve learned that if I really want sexual exploitation to end, I must be willing to address and understand the factors that are connected to it. Like homelessness.
As this article points out, it is estimated that 30 percent of homeless youth in Canada have been involved in some part of the sex industry, often as a strategy for survival. Almost a third of the kids interviewed at a New Orleans shelter said strangers had approached them to trade sex, or to participate in other illegal or informal work, most often in the sex trade.
Home is a gift. Safety is a gift. Shelter is a gift. And these are things everyone should have. While there are no quick fixes to the issue of homelessness, there are steps we can take and things we can do to move in that direction. And who better to lead us than organizations and people who have been working on this for a long time. Like Covenant House.
In an effort to gain understanding, I’ve decided to take the Covenant House challenge to sleep on the street for a night. On April 9, I am joining together with a bunch of other community leaders in Toronto with a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard, experiencing just a small piece of what homeless youth deal with on a regular basis.
I realize that sleeping in the cold for a night doesn’t even begin to cover the harsh realities of those on the streets, and that there are many other compounding factors that make life extremely difficult, like:
- Having to run away from an abusive family situation
- Inability to find/keep a job
- Raising a child alone
- Not having safe relationships
- Mental illness
- Poor nutrition
- Post traumatic stress disorder & fear
These are real needs that must be addressed. This is why Sleep Out is not simply about the experience of spending a night on the street, but also requires participants to raise money for Covenant House programs. Covenant House Toronto initiatives include prevention, crisis care, support, independence building, and aftercare. Their recent announcement is very exciting – they are opening a transitional housing program designed especially for sex trafficking survivors in Toronto early next year.
My goal is to raise over $2000, which will go a long way to support homeless youth in Toronto.
Will you support me as I take part in the Sleep Out Challenge?
You can read the Covenant House 2013 report on homelessness and trafficking here, as well as a recent CNBC article that also highlights the connections. Have a question you wish you could ask? On this website, the homeless address common questions like why they have pets and how they became homeless.
Thanks for your support!