A Night in the Life—Youth Homelessness through the Eyes of a Participant
Geoff Brooks was a participant at A Night in the Life in 2017. He discovered that raising $4,000 for homeless youth turned out to be an easier feat than spending a night on the streets, but it was also an eye-opening and humbling experience.
Despite his initial nervousness, Geoff was comforted by the homeless youth, youth workers, and other event participants. As they were led on a tour of the streets, the youth were excited to give the participants a glimpse into their lives, which included spots to find shelter, sleep, and earn some money by squeegying cars. Geoff learned that in order to stay safe and prevent their belongings from being stolen, homeless youth need to move around the city constantly.
After the tour, Geoff got to chat with some of the youth workers over a bowl of soup from the Directions kitchen. Some of the youth workers battled homelessness and addictions before working at Directions, so they were able to relate with the youth to whom they provide much-needed support every day.
Following the meal, Geoff had a chance to experience the homelessness simulator inside the Directions facility. The simulator gave each participant a profile (Geoff was a young woman with addictions and a dog) as well as the goal of eating three meals and finding a job and housing within 90 minutes.
At this point, Geoff discovered just how difficult life as a homeless youth can be: without money, it was impossible to get on the bus to the employment office, and when he did get there, he found that dogs were not welcome. After dropping his dog off at Directions for a short time, he found that a person with a history of addiction could not easily get a job without a visit to the doctor. Lacking an ID, which is common for people experiencing homelessness, everything became even more difficult to do. When some of the homeless youth who were playing police officers arrested Geoff for loitering outside the employment office, he found that spending a night in jail was the best option in terms of shelter for the night.
The night ended with the participants sleeping on the street in front of the Directions facility. Being across the street from St. Paul’s Hospital, sirens kept Geoff awake most of the night on his cardboard mattress. When he left to go home at 5am the next morning, Geoff recalled everything he had gone through the night before, along with the stories told by the homeless youth about their struggle to survive on the streets.
Geoff was able to go home to a roof over his head and a safe, comfortable bed to sleep in—something that hundreds of homeless youth in Vancouver can’t do. Here’s your chance to change that: visit www.anightinthelife.ca and register to participate in this year’s A Night in the Life to experience youth homelessness for yourself like Geoff did. You can also sponsor a participant or donate to the event, which supports homeless youth by helping them build essential life skills to get back on their feet.