South Surrey moms gear up for night on the street

South Surrey moms gear up for night on the street

‘These kids don’t have a choice’

A pair of South Surrey moms are gearing up to spend Thursday night in a Vancouver back alley.

Along with 48 other Lower Mainland moms, Britta Cheetham and Claudia Hainc have chosen to participate in Sleep Out: Mothers Edition, a fundraiser that will see them hunker down behind Covenant House in Yaletown with only a piece of cardboard for a bed and a sleeping bag to keep them warm.

Cheetham and Hainc know the experience will be only the slightest insight to the discomfort lived on a daily basis by many young people who are struggling with homelessness, mental-health issues and addiction.

“I have a choice,” Cheetham said of the decision to participate. “These kids don’t have a choice.”

They are hoping it will bring awareness and funds to Covenant House; a centre that works to help an estimated 700 street youth – aged 16 to 24 – by providing food, shelter, clothing and counselling.

“Everything Covenant House does is to point kids back in the direction of regular life,” said Cheetham.

Cheetham, 49, said she began volunteering with Covenant House last summer, “to feel like I’m doing something that really matters in a child’s life.”

Once a week, she helps out in the clothing room, where street youth get to pick from donated pants and other items.

The work is both uplifting and heartbreaking, she said – uplifting, because she knows youth coming to Covenant House have chosen to take steps towards a brighter future, and heartbreaking, knowing the youth have endured so much before coming through those doors.

“Circumstances have to be pretty bad for you to feel safer on the street than at home,” she said. “Once they step foot into Covenant House, for me, it’s a step in the right direction.”

For Hainc, 56, this will be her second year participating in Sleep Out. She described last year’s experience as “an eye-opener.”

“It’s exciting and it’s emotional,” she said.

Before tucking in, participants hear from youth who are benefiting from Covenant House.

For Hainc, this year’s Sleep Out has additional meaning: she’s doing it in honour of her father, Hans, who died unexpectedly in January.

“All his life, he had a big heart for people affected by illness, disability…,” she said, recounting how her father, when she was growing up in Switzerland, took on responsibility for three children whose own parents were unable to properly care for them.

To participate in Sleep Out this year, she and Cheetham committed to raising at least $3,000 each, and so far, each has surpassed the goal by about $1,000. As a group, the goal is $150,000. So far, more than $135,000 has been raised.

Visit www.covenanthousebc.org and follow links to Sleep Out: Mothers Edition.