Out At Night is Egale’s new campaign to get queer kids off the streets.
The campaign asks participants to sleep outside on the night of Saturday, May 30 to bear witness to the hardship endured by thousands of queer youth across the country. Individuals and teams who become involved are sponsored, with the funds being raised going toward a broader strategy to combat homelessness.
Communities that have joined the campaign are far-reaching, and they’re not just major cities. Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, and Campbell River, British Columbia, illustrate the impact of the campaign and its mission to erase queer homelessness across Canada.
Linda Stollings became involved with Out At Night and plans on travelling from Edmonton to Calgary to camp out in Shaw Millennium Park. She says she initially planned on sleeping in her own backyard, but decided it would be too comfortable.
“I’m thrilled to be involved in the Out At Night campaign. This is an extremely important cause, as LGBT youth are over-represented in the homeless population. We need to raise awareness so that coming out doesn’t mean being kicked out of family homes. And if this does occur, they require culturally appropriate shelters and trained staff who are sensitive to their needs,” Stollings says. “The last thing a young person needs is to be turned away twice. We need to talk about this problem, and we need to educate families and social networks.”
Ryan Tremblay, whose advertising organization Route Eleven has been representing Out At Night, has first-hand experience with being queer and homeless. He says if it weren’t for the support of his family, a luxury not afforded to many LGBT youth, his experience on the streets would have been very different.
“I was homeless because of mental health and addiction issues, it had nothing to do with my family. Once I was there I was faced with impossible challenges. I couldn’t stay in one shelter for more than a few days,” Tremblay says. “I could never follow all the rules. No one really took interest in me. I fell through the cracks. With the lack of support, my life fell apart more and more. If it weren’t for my parents dragging me to CAMH to get sober and healthy, I’d probably be dead. Most kids don’t have parents like that. One of my friends in the shelter did die. He was barely 18. Every single queer person I knew when I was homeless is still homeless. The system is failing them.”
It’s not too late to become involved. The Toronto event takes place at David Pecaut Square and has live entertainment, including dance group Ill Nana and drag king Tyler Uptight. Two food trucks will also be present.
In Calgary, participants will be camping out in Shaw Millennium Park. Free breakfast will be provided at both locations with live entertainment.
While queer youth on the streets may not have the privilege of food trucks and live entertainment, Out At Night is an important project to raise funds and initiate a dialogue on LGBT homelessness. Its visibility is crucial.