It’s a pandemic.
The usual places to hang out are closed. It’s cold, it’s dark…AND…you have no place to go home to. That’s the unfortunate reality for those who are homeless. For the 170 participants in this year’s 360ºExperience, we hope that there was a deeper understanding obtained of what it is really like to be without a safe place to call home—even if it was for one night. It was certainly the case for us.
As the CEO participating in his 4th 360ºExperience, mine was a lonely experience. I found myself wandering the streets, cold and trying to find shelter from the subzero temperatures. I saw truly homeless individuals huddled in blankets against stores or in the middle of a sidewalk… and I wondered to myself, “how do they do it?” I thought about the many young people who risk their health and safety in exchange for some warmth and togetherness—not a great choice. The resilience of those who have to endure this type of uncertain living is truly incredible.
As Chair of the Board of 360ºkids, my first 360ºExperience was profound. As a mother of three young adults, my initial thoughts reflected sheer amazement on how isolated, lonely and unsafe the youth must feel not having a place to call home – particularly during the winter and during a pandemic. As the night got colder and longer, I had to struggle to stop thinking about when I would be able to return home and get into my warm bed – again, underscoring how difficult it is for us to shed our baseline sense of security to truly get the hard realities of homelessness. I am grateful to 360ºkids for putting on this experience year over year and to those who participate and contribute to the event. For me, participating deepened my commitment to supporting the agency’s great and critical work, especially during these times which are most challenging for the youth experiencing homelessness.
The “At Home” format of this year’s event allowed participants the flexibility to spend the evening as their imaginations would allow- at a park, riding on transit, hanging out in a cold vehicle or in their backyard. The regular e-mails throughout the night provided awareness about services and providers in York Region. In total, over $138,000, more than double our goal, was raised to support the work of 360ºkids, with the largest group of participants ever in the history of the event. Thank you to all who took part in raising awareness and funds, thank you to our partners, such as event co-Chair Chief MacSween of York Regional Police, and of course, thank you to our generous sponsors, in particular ABC Technologies, our Title Sponsor for the event. None of this would have been possible with you.
Clovis Grant, CEO and Laura Williams, Board Chair