Frustrated protesters shouted to Premier Ed Stelmach from the steps of the Alberta legislature yesterday afternoon, taunting the provincial leader to address the growing issue of youth homelessness.
“There are a lot of people who choose not to look at a problem because it’s hard to solve,” Ryan Summer said. “Homelessness among people my age is a hard problem.”
The 22-year-old has been living on the street for five years. An unemployed, recovering addict, Summers lives at the Hope Mission and says area shelters desperately need funding.
“We have kids sleeping in hotels and in the terrifying river valley,” said rally organizer Brittany White. “I sit with them in the parks at night and bring them food.”
White works at the Youth Emergency Shelter, though says she organized the rally for personal reasons.
She said teens become homeless for a number of reasons including poverty, addictions and family issues. When space at the youth shelter is gone, kids are forced into shelters with adults.
A recent Homeward Trust census concluded the number of homeless teens rose 18 per cent between 2006 and 2008, White said.
Last week, Bosco Homes announced the company’s Strathcona County group home would be shutting its doors. White said though the province has committed to placing all Bosco’s clients in existing programs, White says the closure could have a ripple effect.
“Whenever an agency shuts down, there is a huge fear. Our agencies are already overcrowded and there aren’t enough resources for youth. Children should never be part of cutbacks for any reason,” she said.