by Melanie Redman,
Executive Director, A Way Home
Some might think it a bit extreme to push a shopping cart across the entire country through every kind of season and weather, but Joe Roberts believes that we have to do “whatever it takes” to prevent and end youth homelessness in Canada.
Joe started his campaign a number of years ago with a trial run, where he walked from Calgary to Vancouver. After that, he knew it was possible to actualize his vision to push a modified shopping cart, often a symbol of homelessness, across Canada. Joe and his campaign team set out from Newfoundland on May 1, 2016 and concluded this epic journey in British Columbia just last week on Friday, September 29. A Way Home Canada’s team was there to celebrate this feat, along with team members from Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and Raising the Roof (our partners in delivering The Upstream Project, supported in part by The Push for Change).
When I first met Joe and his wife Marie, who is also the campaign director for The Push, I knew that they understood something fundamental about youth homelessness. They could see that as a complex, fusion policy issue, the only effective response is to build a movement that works across the systems that drive young people into homelessness, and that by necessity, must be part of the solutions. Back then, A Way Home was only in its formative stage, but we could easily see that The Push for Change would be an important coalition member in our efforts to elevate this issue and begin to invest in prevention. With every kilometre walked, with every community or school engagement along the way, Joe and the campaign team did just that—helped us build this growing movement for change.
The Push for Change campaign covered over 9,100 kilometres and participated in more than 400 community and school events since May, 2016. After such an incredible journey, you might think Joe is ready to take a break, but Joe and Marie are working with us to plan the future of The Push for Change, and have already invested heavily in a legacy of youth homelessness prevention. One of the most effective engagement strategies has involved both trade unions and police. The support from these entities across the country has set the stage for future partnership on the issue.
The Push for Change shows us that anything is possible and confirms what Dr. Stephen Gaetz always says: We can end youth homelessness in Canada, if we want to.
A Way Home is a national coalition. We are dedicated to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Canada. We inspire and enable communities and all levels of government to organize, plan and implement strategies to address youth homelessness in a coordinated, measurable and impactful way.
We believe that we need to move away from simply “managing” the problem of youth homelessness through emergency services and move towards a more proactive, rights-based approach that focuses on prevention (stopping young people from becoming homeless in the first place) and helping those who are homeless move into housing with supports as rapidly as possible and in a safe and planned way.
A Way Home: http://awayhome.ca.