A former homeless youth who is now a successful entrepreneur brought his story to Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday and was greeted with a warm reception on a cold February day.
When Joe Roberts was 22 he found himself living on the streets in Vancouver. He was homeless. In 1989 you could find Roberts pushing a shopping cart “it was tough , it was lonely, we can talk about being hungry and wet and cold and all those things but it was the feeling of watching the city around me and knowing I wasn’t a part of it” Roberts said the root problem of youth homelessness is fairly common. He ended up being homeless because of family conflict and drug addiction and mental health issues.
“I got the support I needed, I’m here today because of nothing I did, but because of the 10,000 volunteers working on this issue and the support systems that was a stepping stone to exit that life of poverty and despair”
Roberts said his life was a vicious circle of addiction and feeling bad about himself that led to more drugs and more emotional unrest. The help of an addiction centre helped him get out of that cycle.
Pushing the shopping cart is symbolic for the 28 year old who is trekking across Canada pushing one, to bring awareness of the youth homelessness problem and to get the different levels of government to make a stand against the problem. “young people need the protection and to prevent them from showing up at the door of Pauline’s Place in the first place”
Roberts was welcomed by more than two dozen community sponsors, Pauline’s Place being one of them who shared in 50% of the funds raised Wednesday during the three hour event. One of the events featured was the “Cart Wars challenge” where competing teams sponsored a shopping cart for $200 and had to race the cart through an obstacle course on Gore Street. The other 50% of the funds raised went to The Upstream Project, Push for Change’s school-based youth homeless prevention model.
“We are into the hardest part of the campaign, from a terrain perspective we’re heading into some hills as we head towards Wawa, but also the weather” Roberts said. “What is encouraging when we come into a community like the Sault and see how well they have mobilized. This isn’t the push for change campaign, this is the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s campaign today and how everyone has come together to support this every very important issue”. 100% of donated items such as personal hygiene, socks, hats and mitts also benefited Pauline’s Place.
For more information on Push for Change go to www.thepushforchange.com