Finding Ottawa’s Homeless Youth
What do you picture when you think of a homeless youth?
Perhaps someone who looks like this?
A young person sitting on the sidewalk…panning for change…..
The reality is that many youth who I come across on outreach don’t look like this at all. In fact, many are had to identify as “homeless”.
I was walking through the Rideau Center one night when I was doing outreach. I saw two young girls sitting on a bench outside of the entrance. They were well dressed and looked like your average teenager. About 2 hours later, I walked through the Rideau Center again – the same girls were at the same bench. It was about 11pm at this point so this was a little strange.
I approached them, told them I was outreach and asked if they needed help. Out of nowhere, one of the girls said “I’m just trying to get home!” She started sobbing.
It turns out, the girls were ages 14 and 16. They were both involved with the Children’s Aid Society but had run away from their designated living situations. They had not slept in over 48 hours, and had spent the last night at a nearby MacDonald’s.
“A man offered us a hotel room last night. He said there was lots booze there for us…but he was kinda creepy.” One of the girls said.
It terrified me to think of someone taking advantage of the vulnerability of these girls.
I spent the next hour contacting CAS and arranging a way home for them. As I said goodbye, I handed them my card and told them if they ever needed help to contact me. They hugged me goodbye and thanked me.
I’m thankful to God that we were able to help them get home safely, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I will see them back on the streets again. Afterall, many youth on the streets have been involved with the children’s aid society and many run away for the first time at age 14.
I pray that these girls get the support and love that they need to keep them from seeking solace on the streets.