TRURO – Poverty and teenage homelessness are a real problem in this area, said an organizer of an event to highlight the issues.
Chris Wildbore, teen program co-ordinator with the Truro branch of the Colchester East Hants Public Library, said there are teenagers in the community living in very abusive situations facing the threat of being kicked out of their homes daily.
“People don’t want to acknowledge it, because when you acknowledge homelessness on any level, youth or otherwise, you have to acknowledge the fact that every thing we think is a safety net is more of an illusion than a safety net,” he said.
“It is a problem.”
Wildbore and the library youth group recently partnered with the Colchester Anti-poverty Network, with the support of network chairwoman Sue King-Darby, on a project to educate and create awareness of youth homelessness.
“I was approached by Sue back in the summer asking if my teens would be interested in helping them create, design and implement a life size board game that would help raise awareness about homelessness for youth in our area,” he said.
The style of the game started out looking like a traditional Monopoly game, but as the group began exploring issues affecting homeless people and resources needed for their survival, that design quickly changed.
“They started doing research on homelessness. The kind of things you confront when you are living on the streets, looking at hard dark facts of life,” said Wildbore.
Jessica McLeod, of Truro, is one of about 10 teenagers who worked on the project.
“It was an amazing learning experience and it really opened my eyes to what was actually going on,” she said. “Working on this game opens up a whole new side of it and it is traumatizing to think that it is actually happening here.”
As players take turns rolling a four-sided die, they land on spaces representing a day living on the street where they can take an action or draw an opportunity card. He added not all opportunities may have a positive result but are real situations homeless people find themselves in. The game is won by surviving despite challenges and finding a way off the street.
“Really, I guess there is only one way to win and the fact is 90 per cent of the people that end up on the street, don’t win,” said the co-ordinator.
An event will be held at the Truro Farmers’ Market on Oct. 16 from 4 to 6 p.m. where the group of teenagers who designed the project will invite the public to experience homelessness and poverty by playing the interactive game.
“If you have a child or know a child that could be at risk, you need to be here,” said Wildbore.
McLeod hopes people trying the game will take home a renewed understanding of the dire circumstances surrounding youth homelessness.
“I want them to take away that it is happening; it could happen to anyone and at the drop of a hat, and if we don’t do anything to stop it, it will happen to more and more people, and how terrible it really is and how big of an issue,” said MacLeod.