Cloverdale’s Kristin McMahon is only 11, but she can imagine how difficult life would be if she was a former foster child facing life as an adult.
She’d been hearing about recent headlines involving youth aging out of foster care – the system considers them adults at 19, when they graduate from the child welfare system, although it’s a difficult time of transition for youth lacking stable parental and family supports.
“As we looked into this more, she said to me, ‘Imagine if I was 18 and you kicked me out? What would I do? Where would I go? How would I eat?” her mother Sonja Warwick-McMahon recalls her asking.
For three years now, the McMahons have hosted an annual fundraiser open house, with Kristin choosing the charity.
This year, Kristin chose Covenant House, an organization with an outreach program where teams visit the streets of Vancouver to make contact with homeless and street youth, offering food, clothing, counselling and service referrals.
There’s also a walk-in support centre, residential crisis shelter, and a transitional supportive housing program. The organization is 95 per cent privately funded through individuals, corporations, foundations, schools and community groups.
The McMahons invited friends, relatives, and neighbours to their gathering, where they shared information with guests.
They also set up a donation page on the Covenant House website, and collected household items for the cause, dropping off the items before Christmas.
Covenant House says there are between 500 and 1,000 homeless youth living on Vancouver’s streets. Many of them are runaways; there are more than 10,000 runaways reported in B.C. each year.
About 700 former foster children age out of the child welfare system annually, and an estimated 40 per cent of homeless were in the foster system.