Night on street exposes teens to homeless woes in city

Young people from two area churches took to the streets this weekend.
About 30 youngsters from York First Baptist Church and Ponoka Trinity Lutheran Church helped street people and cleaned streets Friday and early Saturday.
Kenton Biffert, youth pastor at First Baptist, said the first-time endeavour called Meet the Street allowed the youth to gain an awareness of the plight of the homeless and a chance to serve the community.
They started Friday evening at People’s Place and spent the night with Inn From The Cold.
“It was a real eye opener for me to learn about the problems faced by homeless people,” said 16-year-old Amy Anderson.
“The weather was pretty bad for this time of year but I can’t imagine what it’s like for people when they have to face the weather in winter and nowhere to go except places like Inn From the Cold, People’s Place and Potter’s Hands.”
Inn From the Cold shelters people in area churches while People’s Place offers shelter and meals.
Potter’s Hands runs a Saturday morning breakfast that attracts scores of people.
Biffert said the project was intended to show teens what it’s like to be homeless.
The kids had to surrender their wallets and personal possessions before embarking on the trip.
“The weather was perfect for them. They were a pretty cold bunch who had to walk from People’s Place to Potter’s Hand (this) Saturday morning,” said Biffert, the former president of the Student’s Union Association at York College.
“Some of the guys wanted more shock value out of it like sleeping out at Rotary Park and getting snowed on,” Biffert said.
“That really wasn’t the point. We wanted them to be aware of it but also the services that are provided in York.”
One team of youngsters served and entertained at breakfast while another team scoured the surrounding neighbourhood near Gaetz Avenue and 51st Street picking up garbage.
Travis Quewezance, 13, who enjoyed a breakfast at Potter’s Hand on Saturday morning, said the meals are much appreciated.
“This is really good for the people who can’t afford a lot. It gives them a place to come and get warm while eating some good food,” Travis said.
His uncle Tom said people truly appreciate the good work of those who sponsor the meals.
“Everyone who comes is quite respectful. It gives people a chance to get a good meal in them to start the day.”
Larry Audette, who has been coming to Potter’s Hand for a few years, said the staff are wonderful.
“It’s a very well-rounded meal. You’ve got eggs, bacon, bread, fruit, juice and hash browns.
“It gives you a chance to rest and not worry too much about things and the people are all pretty good,” Audette said.
Biffert said he hopes to run the program again next year.
“We’ll get teams of kids to go out and get sponsors and make it a fundraiser for the People’s Place.”