Dovercourt Recreation Association is hosting their first annual SleepOut for Youth, a new event that will raise funds for the Youth Services Bureau and homeless youth living in Ottawa.
SleepOut will take place outdoors at Westboro Kiwanis Park (behind Dovercourt Recreation Centre) on November 22. It’s a fundraising sleepover, and about fifty people will layer up for what is sure to be a very long and restless night.
Dovercourt invited local high school students and local community members to join staff for this special fundraiser.
“It’s going to be good, but it’s going to be cold,” says Mark Bond, one of the staff members who is helping co-ordinate the event.
“I think people are going to have a tough night sleeping, but it’s all for a good cause.”
Dovercourt staff will start setting up between 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. After that, they hope to engage the participants in some activities that will distract them from the cold.
“We’ll throw a movie on the big screen and we’ll watch that for a bit,” explains Bond. “We’ll have a bonfire going the whole night and play various games to stay warm. Something to get the heart rate going.”
Participants have been asked to come equipped with anything that will help them spend the night outdoors.
“Sleeping bags, sleeping mats, loves, mitts, hats, anything that will help them stay warm,” says Bond. Participants are also allowed to bring a tent.
Bond plans to hang out by the fire as long as he can. He’s also bringing a regular sleeping bag (“nothing extravagant”), a wool sweater, gloves, and “lots of layers.”
Bedtime will be at 11:00 p.m. as per city bylaw. Participants will be sleeping inside the area defined by the hockey rink. In the morning they’ll be treated to breakfast and a hot beverage.
Fundraising has been as brisk as the fall weather.
“Our original goal was $1000 but we got that so fast, within a week,” says Bond.
They decided to double their goal and are just short of meeting it.
Have they been obsessively checking the Weather Network as they get closer to the big night?
“Right now it’s going to be cold, but you just have to troop it out and spend the night outside, because if you were a homeless youth you might not have a shelter to go to, or any other options,” says Bond.
“The whole point is to spend a night in their shoes, rain or shine.”
The Dovercourt SleepOut is a fundraiser for the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (YSB), which provides a range of programs and services for young people such as:
- Emergency shelters, transitional housing, and supportive housing
- 24‑hour regional crisis line and mobile response team
- Assistance in situations of family conflict and dysfunction
- Addictions counselling and harm‑reduction programs
- Support for issues related to poverty, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or abuse
- Health and dental clinic, including HIV prevention services
- Intensive short- and long-term counselling for youth and families
- School-based mental health services
- Job find programs
- Youth justice programs
- Youth advisory committees to foster leadership
- Youth Mental Health Walk-in Clinic