Blunt videos to show true face of youth homelessness in Windsor

A Windsor youth organization is aiming to "explode the stereotypes" about homeless young people in the city, by allowing them to share their own stories of how they ended up on the street.

Series of videos by the Windsor Youth Centre tells stories of youth homelessness by the people affected

Business owners say homeless people often sleep outside of their store and they worry customers won't find it appealing. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

A Windsor youth organization is aiming to "explode the stereotypes" about homeless young people in the city, by allowing them to share their own stories of how they ended up on the street. 

The Windsor Youth Centre will release thirteen 30-second videos over the next year that tell the completely unvarnished stories of how some kids end up homeless. The first of which will be released on Monday. 

"We're trying to give people a visual image of the struggle that young people are living with and I think unbelievable to a lot of people because we live in Canada and we assume that we have a strong social service network," said Windsor Youth Centre Executive Director Tamara Kowalska.

Kowalska, who founded the organization six years ago, called the videos "hard-hitting." She found some of them very difficult to watch.

"These are not feel-good videos," she said. "No one will come away from these stories feeling great about the world we live in, but the good news is, there is always potential to change."

 "No one will come away from these stories feeling great about the world we live in, but the good news is, there is always potential to change."- Tamara Kowalska, Executive Director, Windsor Youth Centre

The timing of these videos comes as Kowalska, and her counterparts at city shelters, are dealing with a heavy influx of homelessness. 

"When I say this is a crisis this is a crisis," she said. "The moment came this year when I understood the immediacy."

That immediacy struck Kowalska when a young teen came to the youth centre late one night, struggling with substance abuse issues and "having a really bad night."

Kowalska talked with the young woman, and later took her to the Downtown Mission so she could have a place to stay. But a week later, the young girl died. 

 "There have been several incidences like that that struck me and I think now is the time to tell the truth about what is happening in our city," said Kowalska.

The videos will be distributed on social media and shown at Lakeshore Cinemas. The youth centre is also exploring the possibilities of having them air on television.