Save for a noisy bird that wouldn’t stop chirping and singing, two North Okanagan women’s goal to bring awareness to youth homelessness was a success.
Coldstream’s Kiley Routley, and her sister-in-law, Heidi Routley, of Vernon, slept – well, slept a little – under the stars overnight Friday, July 10, to raise money and awareness for Covenant House in Vancouver.
“That bloody bird, I almost went out to have it out with them,” laughed Kiley Routley Sunday morning, 24 hours after she and Heidi spent 12 rather sleepless hours in a tent behind Kiley’s Back To Earth organic shop production facility beside Highway 6 in Lavington.
The pair voluntarily gave up the comforts of their own beds to take part in Covenant House’s Sleep Out. Covenant House exists for young people for whom there is often no one else; young people aged 16 – 24 who have fled physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care.
The Routleys raised $2,390 which will go toward helping counsel 10-to-12 youth who have no homes.
Friday evening started with a Zoom presentation from Covenant House with everybody participating in the Sleep Out. At about 9 p.m., the sisters-in-law entered their tent – many homeless youth sleep on the streets in tents as it’s the only thing they own – and got into their sleeping bags, and tried to sleep in the bags which were atop pieces of cardboard.
Along with the bird, the women were also kept awake by vehicles honking support, vehicles racing by the shop on Highway 6 throughout the evening and morning, the nearby lumber mill and pellet plant in operation, and by the thoughts of B.C. youth in every community sleeping on the streets night after night.
“After one night, we were exhausted, yet there’s youth who do this night after night, and you feel how that would break a person down and not feel totally loved,” said Kiley.
“It was an incredible, humbling experience. We were excited to bring awareness to homelessness. It’s a reality in every community.”
The pair exited the tent at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“We both went home to sleep,” said Kiley. “We were wrecked emotionally.”
Still, the Routleys called the Sleep Out a great experience, though admitted to feeling nervous about not being in their bedrooms.
“We thought about the people living in tents on the street and people coming into their tents and stealing their belongings,” said Kiley.
The pair are thinking about organizing a local Sleep Out event, possibly to be held in Vernon.
Covenant House relies on the generosity of more than 55,000 individuals and organizations to provide shelter, food, clothing and counselling to over 1,100 youth each year.