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'Sense of belonging': Boxes of Hope campaign ramps up

'I’ve gotten to know them and they’re great kids. They deserve a wonderful Christmas,' says official of local youth experiencing homelessness

Youth Haven’s Boxes of Hope are back and the organization hopes the community will help brighten the season for an at-risk youth.

The campaign provides gift packages at Christmas to young people who are experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness, in our community.

Louise Jones, who is the director of fund development for Youth Haven, says most of the young people in the organization have never really experienced a true Christmas, so the campaign is beloved by those who need it. 

“It's that sense of belonging, just knowing that the community cares enough to contribute to their well-being,” Jones said. “There have been a couple of youth the last couple of years (where) this campaign is the first time they’ve ever opened a Christmas present.”

Last year saw just over $58,000 raised in what Jones called Youth Haven's biggest fundraiser. 

The boxes cost $50 and the campaign allows the organization to create a 'Box of Hope' winter care package. The boxes typically include gloves, scarves, toques, a variety of hygiene products, as well as some clothing and often transportation passes.

This campaign also helps see that each youth receives three healthy meals a day, a warm bed, a care package, support, counselling, and gifts under the tree.

Currently, Youth Haven is home to 19 young people at its emergency shelter and 16 at its transitional facility.

“Within the last year, we have supported approximately 600 youth in our community or surrounding area. We have outreach workers and we provide gifts to them as well,” Jones said. 

Jones added there is a stigma that surrounds youth in the organization and what they all need is a little compassion.

“They’re not here by choice; I think people assume that. They're here to get away from abuse and possibly a home with drugs and alcohol,” she said. “They are looking for a safe place and this becomes their home. I’ve gotten to know them and they’re great kids. They deserve a wonderful Christmas.” 

To purchase a box, head to the website by clicking here.

Youth Haven provides both emergency and transition housing and outreach services for youth experiencing homelessness and at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24, and serves as Simcoe County’s only emergency shelter for young people.