Community Counselling & Resource Centre

Trent University students voting on levy that will help homeless youths in Peterborough

March 14th, 2018

A group of Trent University students are hoping the power of a little collective action will have a big impact on marginalized youths in Peterborough.

Between Wednesday and Friday of this week, students have the opportunity to vote in favour of a $3 levy fee in support of the YES Shelter for Youth and Families transitional housing program. The Vote “Yes” for Yes campaign was started by nursing undergraduate student Shannon Culkeen.

“Trent students have this really unique opportunity to close the gap,” she says.

“I think the Trent students can realize the injustice of that,” says the 32-year-old.

Peterborough’s homeless youths are close to Culkeen’s heart. She’s been a senior resident at YES Shelter's Abbott House for three years.

“My role is too be roommate of the month every month,” she says.

“I am just a relentless cheerleader for the people that live there.”

Culkeen says the youths are smart, observant, funny and have the skills but too many barriers are placed in the way of their successes.

“They have all the smarts and compassion of every middle-class kid in Peterborough but things have been made more difficult for them,” she adds.

Culkeen and her team rallied to get 1,200 signatures to get the levy question on the ballot. For the levy to pass, 15 percent of the student body needs to vote with the majority checking off yes in favour of YES.

The $3 levy could bring in between $18,000 and $23,000 worth of sustainable funding every year for the shelter.

“I’ve just been floored by the response from the students who just care deeply and don’t want to see youth homelessness persist in this community,” she says.

YES executive director Meagan La Plante says the funding would be a game changer.

“It is pretty incredible that they have chose to do that,” a thankful La Plante says about the students that have rallied around the campaign.

She says the transitional house ensures youth can live in safety and stability for up to a year with the support of a live in senior resident and a YES staff member who co-ordinates the programs and supports youths with their life-skill development.

“It is an evidence-based program that works super well. The youths that graduate from the program as far as I know never come back to the shelter,” she says.

“Youths that graduate from the program go on to do some really incredible things often becoming Trent and Fleming students," she adds.

She says YES serves about 400 unique youths a year at the shelter, but the majority of them never get the opportunity to be in the transitional housing program because the Abbott House can only room six clients at a time.

YES staff would like to expand the program but are challenged because they don’t receive any government funding it.

“We don’t have sustainable funding for the program so we rely on the support of the community,” she says.