Last year, as Delaney Gunn was providing support to youths experiencing homelessness as part of Literacy Central Vancouver Island’s mobile outreach team, they heard stories both beautiful and heartbreaking.
Gunn, LCVI’s youth literacy coordinator, collected those stories, as well as poems and art works, and is sharing them with the public in Youth Voices from the Street, the latest issue of LCVI’s Place magazine.
“The title of the publication is Place because we really wanted to make a place for these youths,” Gunn explained. “I couldn’t offer them a physical place to go, but I could offer them a platform for their thoughts and their opinions.”
Gunn and the outreach team engaged with youths mostly at the Wesley Street encampment, and after that was demolished sought them out in places like parks and parking lots. After addressing the youths’ immediate needs with items like sleeping bags and first aid kits, the team started providing journals and art supplies.
“Once the youths were able to transition a little bit out of that survival mode for a moment then they had this sense of relief and this sense of wanting to create more,” Gunn said.
Gunn said that by being a consistent presence and conducting their work in a way that focused on the youths and made them feel safe, “we didn’t have to do a lot of breaking down barriers.”
“As we continued to show up and build trust with these youths then they realized that they could actually be heard by somebody,” they said.
Gunn said feelings of being marginalized and ignored and the struggle to survive are present in the youths’ work and that the outreach team’s hope was to validate those feelings and let the youths know that there are people who support them.
“One of the biggest barriers that our youths were expressing was isolation and just feeling like the community didn’t want them or outright hated them,” Gunn said. “So we wanted to counteract that by saying, ‘Not only do we love you and see you, but we want to hear what you have to say and your opinions are valuable and whatever you write, whatever you’re able to hand in, is good.’”
The magazine also features contributions by outreach workers. Gunn said the project offered “a sense of healing in a really chaotic, tumultuous time.”
“I’m just so grateful we were able to make something beautiful out of a really not beautiful year,” they said. “One thing after another just went wrong for our youths last year and at least we were able to offer them a little bit of space, a little bit of comfort and a little bit of care.”
Place magazine is available at Well Read Books, 19 Commercial St., with proceeds supporting LCVI’s youth literacy program.