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‘Our youth is the future’: Surrey homelessness to be tackled in student project

City grant of $30k helping students learn about homelessness in different parts of Surrey
High school students from around Surrey will be researching about homelessness in Surrey during a project that comes as a result of a $30,000 grant from the city. (Surrey Schools photo)

Students throughout Surrey will be focusing on researching and working with people experiencing homelessness in the city, with hopes to decrease stigma and increase dignity.

The project, spearheaded by L.A. Matheson Secondary teacher Annie Ohana and her Mustang Justice student group, is coming from a City of Surrey grant through the Dignity Project. The city initiative is a public awareness campaign that was announced last year to promote dignity for people experiencing homelessness.

RELATED: Dignity Project encourages reflection on, awareness of homelessness in Surrey

“It’s one thing to do food drives or warm clothing and blanket drives, but those don’t really speak to the root causes of poverty,” Ohana said in a Surrey Schools release.

“With the Dignity Project, we’re looking to dive deeper into the issues and explore what we can do to humanize those affected by economic insecurity and how to get students informed and engaged with that.”

Over the course of many months, students will learn about what homelessness looks like in their neighbourhoods, by being on the ground and visiting local shelters and other organizations that serve the population.

“So some areas may be more affected by things like NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard), or have specific groups of people affected who are different from other areas in the city,” the teacher explained.

“What we want to do is encourage students to really dig into their areas because Surrey is such a large city that you can’t just apply single solutions for the entire region.”

Once that portion of the project is complete, students will compile their data, other information and stories gathered into presentations. In addition to sharing the learning outcomes from the initiative, the high schoolers will also delve into what they believe could be solutions to the issue of homelessness throughout Surrey.

The presentations will be made to members of the school community during a youth conference later this year, as well as to city staff.

With $30,000 in funding available to the district for the initiative, six other secondary schools have been enlisted in the research project: Kwantlen Park, Enver Creek, Fraser Heights, Queen Elizabeth, Fleetwood and Clayton Heights secondaries.

“Our youth is the future of our society, so to have them involved and already thinking about issues like this will get us to a better place and I’m hopeful that we’ll have a brighter future because of it,” Ohana said.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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