For the third year in a row, a Surrey-based restaurant chain is challenging its employees and the public to sleep outside in an effort to raise funds – and awareness – for youth homelessness.
The event, called One Night Out, is an initiative of restaurant franchise giant Joseph Richard Group (JRG).
Last year, an estimated 200 people bundled up and spent the night on the pavement in the parking lot of Grandview Corners Shopping Centre, next to JRG’s S + L Kitchen & Bar, raising more than $156,000 for Covenant House Vancouver and Youth Unlimited.
Ryan Moreno, CEO of JRG, explained the company has “strong ties” to the four organizations.
“Ultimately the goal is every year we do it, these are the four charities that we would be doing it for. We’re not looking to expand it more, but these four, we know them really well,” he said. “Very much these are the ones that are near and dear to us. Let’s plant our flag. This is what One Night Out will be going forward.”
The idea for the event was born after Moreno participated in Covenant House Vancouver’s Sleep Out: Executive Edition a few years ago and felt that more could be done.
“I told them I wanted to make it bigger and do more. They probably thought I was crazy but we went and organized the whole thing,” he told the Now-Leader.
“That first year that I participated there was a presentation they were going and they quoted a number of between 700 to 800 youth are on the street at any given time,” Moreno said, adding that he hopes to grow participation in the event to match that head count.
“This is probably one of the best, if not the best thing that we’ve done as a team builder for our company. The majority of our staff that work with us are part-time. That’s the nature of this business. But they’ll always remember their time with JRG because of this experience. It’s life-changing,” he said.
Moreno said it’s also been inspiring to see children take part, but also, their reactions to the experience.
His son participated in the 2018 event, along with roughly a dozen more children under the age of 12.
“My son went to school the next day,” said Moreno, adding that was despite being given the option to skip school for that day. “I called him at the end of the day and he said, ‘I really appreciate my bed, dad.’ For an eight year old? It’s just so genuine. It’s from their core.”
JRG’s website notes that its “philanthropic mission” is based on statistics provided by the charitable groups they support, including that between 500 to 1,000 young people live on the streets in the Lower Mainland.
“We hope our fundraising efforts will help prevent and reduce the number of youth who are suffering,” the post reads. “Many youths are re-victimized on the streets, having fled one unsafe situation only to find another. Families in our province are raising children with special needs and limited support. Children in our communities are going to school hungry, without proper self-care resources.”
As of Nov. 4 this year, more than $32,000 had already been raised. Donations to the cause can be made at onenightout.ca.
The event will take place from 9 p.m. on Nov. 18 to 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 at S + L Kitchen & Bar at 16051 24th Ave.
“Anybody reading this article, anybody in the community who wants to take part and get a group together, please join us. It’s all about getting the community together,” said Moreno.
JRG is made up of more than 25 public houses, restaurants and liquor retail outlets in BC and Alberta.