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Putting a fresh face to youth homelessness

'When I first got to Barrie and people would ask where I live, I would just give a general location. I didn’t want to feel worthless,' teen says ahead of Saturday's Coldest Night of the Year
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photo by Wendy King

Youth homelessness in Simcoe County is too often an issue that remains in the shadows.

Nobody really wants to admit to living at a shelter.

Eighteen-year-old Blake Laface, formerly of Timmins, agreed to go public about his situation, which finds him as a resident of Barrie’s Youth Haven.

He wanted to speak out in advance of Saturday’s fundraising event, the Coldest Night of the Year.

"Once you get to the point where you are couch surfing or spending nights outside, on the streets, with no money, no job, not enough clothes and no hope - at that point you are ready for a shelter," Laface said. 

He’s been at Youth Haven on and off since last March in transitional housing.

“When I first got to Barrie and people would ask where I live, I would just give a general location," he said. "I didn’t want to feel worthless. People do judge you mostly by your appearance. Society does look at you differently when you are homeless.

"I knew I didn’t want that life. I wanted to get a job. I would rather work than be at the shelter.”

Laface works full-time doing custom carpentry at a local factory and is saving money to get an apartment with a friend.

He admits some youth experiencing homelessness also have addiction issues, but says he’s been sober for two and a half years.

“The hardest thing and the most important thing is to keep a good mentality. You can lose your motivation if you hang around people who don’t want to help themselves," Laface said. "Sometimes, its easier to just keep to yourself. A lot of us have trust issues.”

Asked what message he’d like to give the general public, Laface says he wants people to be more understanding.

“Try to think about someone else’s situation. Get to know a young person. Most are kind-hearted," he said. "Once we build up personal walls, it's hard to break them down.”

The Coldest Night of the Year begins and ends at Barrie City Hall and includes two-, five- or 10-kilometre routes. 

The goal is $50,000 to go to maintain programs and services.

Last year, Youth Haven helped 400 youth in residence and through outreach programs in Barrie, Innisfil, Orillia, Bradford, Alliston and Midland.

The walk begins Saturday at 5 p.m.

For more information, click here.