Trek for Teens sup­ports lo­cal youth shel­ter

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN LUD­LOW

It’s an all-too-com­mon prob­lem, and one to which many peo­ple turn a blind eye.

For the month of April, the Trek for Teens foun­da­tion is ac­cept­ing do­na­tions of food and cloth­ing for the Kingston Youth Shel­ter.

Trek for Teens is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that be­gan in 2007, through the Ro­tary Club of Eto­bi­coke as part of a pro­gram called Camp En­ter­prise.

“The ob­jec­tive of Camp En­ter­prise is to ex­pose, ex­plore and spur the stu­dent’s imag­i­na­tion on the whole sub­ject of busi­ness and pri­vate en­ter­prise,” as stated on the Camp En­ter­prise web­site.

Stu­dents were tasked with com­ing up with an idea for a char­ity and fundrais­ing plan for it. The idea that was cho­sen was one from a stu­dent, Michael Baz­zoc­chi: Trek for Teens.

Work­ing closely with the Ro­tary Club in its first year, the Trek for Teens Foun­da­tion has been suc­cess­fully and in­de­pen­dently run by stu­dents ever since.

“Ba­si­cally what Trek for Teens is, is we work to raise money and aware­ness for youth home­less­ness in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” Adrian Kuchtaruk, re­gional di­rec­tor for the Kingston Trek for Teens branch, said.

“Two years ago, we in­stilled this club off of the main one in Toronto, and we work very closely with the Kingston Youth Shel­ter.”

In Canada, about 20 per cent of the home­less pop­u­la­tion is be­tween the ages of 16 and 24. At any given time when you look out the win­dow, be­tween 40,000 and 50,000 youth are home­less.

From this fig­ure, at least 70 per cent of youth have been abused in some form, ei­ther sex­u­ally, emo­tion­ally or phys­i­cally, and at least 30 per cent of youth home­less have done work in the sex trade at some point in their life, work­ing in pros­ti­tu­tion or other ex­ploitive prac­tices.

While youth can be­come home­less through a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, un­for­tu­nately the av­enues in which they must nav­i­gate be­come very nar­row. A big part of the home­less even­tu­ally have to re­sort to crime, theft and other il­le­gal vices just to sur­vive. Pan­han­dling, which is le­gal in Canada under the Safe Streets of ‘99, is one of the only other op­tions out there.

“With youth home­less­ness, ev­ery­one thinks Toronto or the big­ger cities, but it is a big­ger prob­lem here [Kingston] than peo­ple think, as Kingston is kind of the big­ger city among the smaller towns and cities around.”

In Kingston, one-third of shel­ter users are youth, com­pared with the na­tional es­ti­mate of one-fifth. Ev­ery night, there are around 40 youth spend­ing the night on the street. The life­time cost of hous­ing just a sin­gle one of these in­di­vid­u­als is $1 mil­lion.

See­ing that there didn’t seem to be a lot of sup­port for the Kingston Youth Shel­ter, and want­ing to do what they could to help, Kuchtaruk and two of his friends reached out to Michael Baz­zoc­chi af­ter hear­ing a talk he gave dur­ing a phi­lan­thropy con­fer­ence at Queen’s Univer­sity.

“We no­ticed there wasn’t a lot of clubs specif­i­cally tai­lored to sup­port the Kingston Youth Shel­ter, so we saw it as an op­por­tu­nity when Michael Baz­zoc­chi was here to give his talk. My­self and two of my good friends reached out to Michael and over the sum­mer worked with him to set up the club at Queen’s,” Kuchtaruk said.

The foun­da­tion or­ga­nizes events through­out the year, in­clud­ing com­mu­nity events, con­certs and dances as well as even fash­ion and film shows, with any funds raised go­ing to dif­fer­ent home­less ini­tia­tives, mainly the Kingston Youth Shel­ter.

“We help the youth shel­ter in two ways: mon­e­tary do­na­tions through sev­eral events, and in-kind do­na­tions, so cloth­ing, food, school sup­plies, laun­dry sup­plies,” Kuchtaruk said.

“We do the spring do­na­tion drive be­cause peo­ple are mov­ing out. We tend to see a lot of do­na­tions. Last year we raised just under $2,500 worth of in-kind do­na­tions.”

Re­cently, Trek for Teens held its first mu­sic con­cert in Kingston and also held a Su­per Smash Bros. tour­na­ment that also re­ceived a lot of at­ten­tion.

There are even talks of im­ple­ment­ing an “Amazing Race”-style chal­lenge, sim­i­lar to the one the Toronto club holds ev­ery year.

While things seem to be slowly im­prov­ing, Kuchtaruk be­lieves more can be done.

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