Edmonton street youth program sees outpouring of support after window smashed

A community organization that supports a growing number of LGBTQ2 street youth is thanking Edmontonians for their generous holiday spirit after the facility’s front window was smashed early last week.

The Community Health Empowerment and Wellness Project — or CHEW — was flooded with support after they posted to social media, project manager Corey Wyness said in an interview. 

“It has been non-stop support coming through emails, coming through my phone, people just stopping by and saying, ‘I can’t give you much, but here’s $10,'” Wyness said.

“It’s just this beautiful thing that happens once again, like when we first started, where the community is just rallying to help our kiddos out and it’s so beautiful and I’m so thankful,” Wyness, who youth affectionately call ‘gay yoda,’ said.

The additional support comes at the right time as the organization expands for the second time in three years with a grant from TD Bank. The project is now serving up to 50 clients every day.

Wyness said he is also making progress on his dream to open an overnight shelter for queer, transgender, non-binary and two-spirit youth, commonly referred to as “rainbow folk” in the community.

Shelters ‘not safe’ 

“They don’t go to shelters because it’s not safe,” Wyness said.

He helps youth by keeping them warm in winter coats, toques, gloves, hand warmers, blankets and sleeping bags.

“They’re outside unless they can find some place warm by a vent or somewhere where they can kind of sneak in and keep warm,” Wyness said.

“But you know, the other night I was doing outreach and there was almost 25 [to] 26 kids out, some of them as young as 16.”

Wyness described a recent incident where one community member was taunted with slurs and beaten up in the washroom.

“They went back outside devastated,” he said.

The smashed window that prompted a call for help, resulting in an outpouring of donations.
The smashed window that prompted a call for help, resulting in an outpouring of donations. (Corey Wyness)

‘A traditional Christmas’

Now that CHEW has the money it needs, the community is getting ready for the organization’s annual Christmas sleepover which includes a big feast, a Disney movie marathon and a specially picked out gift for each youth, with their name on it.

“We wait for Christmas morning and then I make everyone wait before they can open their presents.,” Wyness said.

“It’s like a traditional Christmas.” 

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