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Vancouver Island event challenges people to ‘Rough It’ for youth homelessness

‘Roughing It’ outdoor overnight event to be held at Harewood Centennial Park Sept. 23-24
Amy Worth with the Nanaimo Youth Services Association demonstrates how participants will sleep during the organization’s ‘Roughing It’ event at Harewood Centennial Park on Sept. 23. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

A fundraising campaign invites the public to “spend the night on the street” and experience what more than 100 youths in Nanaimo face every day.

Nanaimo Youth Services Association’s Roughing It event will be held at the city’s Harewood Centennial Park on Sept. 23-24, starting at 6 p.m. and ending the following morning at 7:30 a.m.

The figure of more than 100 youths experiencing homelessness came from a point-in-time homeless count held in Nanaimo in 2020, with youths considered to be those between the ages of 13-24.

“The purpose of the event is to create awareness around Nanaimo’s large youth homeless population – or the unhoused youth of Nanaimo,” said Amy Worth, director of development and communications for NYSA. “[And] to have everyone assemble at a safe site where we can address the difference between youth homeless and adult homelessness.”

The association’s overall goal for Roughing It is to raise $50,000 for an additional residential building. Worth said there are currently 36 youths housed through NYSA, with many more waitlisted.

“So, for us, the demand is there.”

She added that while two residential buildings exist already, ideally NYSA would like to develop dormitory-style housing that offers life skills training such as cooking classes.

For Roughing It, participants are asked to bring a sleeping bag as well as warm clothes and water. They are, however, asked to leave tents at home since the location of the park’s covered lacrosse box will be locked and secured with three posted security guards.

Each participant will be given one of three meals to be determined via a random draw; 64 per cent will receive rice and water; 26 per cent will receive beans, salad, rice and a drink; and 10 per cent will receive a full catered meal.

“These numbers are to illustrate that some of us face greater challenges than others, and that inequality can bring about hunger,” Worth said, although added that additional food items can be purchased at the event.

As part of the scheduled activities, activist Joe Roberts, who pushed a shopping cart across Canada in 2017 to also raise awareness and money for youth homeless prevention, will speak.

Since space is limited, those interested in Roughing It will needed to register online at

READ MORE: Nanaimo Youth Services Association clients go on a roll thanks to Bikes for Kids

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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