| Nov 05, 2014

In a special touring show highlighting the issues of youth poverty and homelessness, members of Theatre Complete captured the hearts and minds of students at the North Addington Education Centre (NAEC) on October 24.

Theatre Complete, a theatre focus program that runs out of QECVI in Kingston, invites high school students from Kingston and the surrounding area to come together for one semester of intense theatre study. The program includes a drama in the community segment that has the students choose, research, and create a show centered on a relevant youth topic of their choice. Past productions of Theatre Complete have included the topics of bullying, mental health and addiction, and this year the program's 11 students chose youth poverty as their subject after receiving a special request from the Youth Diversion Organization in Kingston to cover the topic.

After intense research, which included interviews with youth who have faced issues of poverty and homelessness, the students presented a show that was based on the real life experiences of the people they interviewed.

The show included music and dance and the stories included one girl, who along with her mother faced numerous challenges after their economic situation changed dramatically following the death of their father/husband. Another story tells of a teenager who fathered a child, and faced a number of challenges including the decision to give the child up.

Much of the factual information presented in the show challenged the common myths about youth poverty and demonstrated how youth can easily fall into the clutches of poverty and homelessness. Canada's child poverty rate is 15.1%, four percentage points higher than a 17 country average. Many people are shocked to find out that 50% of homeless youth come from upper and middle class households and have left their homes as a result of unhealthy living situations that often include various forms of abuse and neglect. The fact also that one in five Canadian youths are either homeless or living in poverty is another eye opening statistic, as is the fact that children who experience persistent poverty are at a higher risk of experiencing health problems, developmental delays and behavior disorders.

One of the goals of the Theatre Complete program is to demonstrate how theatre can directly impact the world and facilitate discussion about important issues facing youth. Ryan Clement, who heads up the program, said he hopes the show will “make people more aware of the these issues, while also offering help to those living in these circumstances and encouraging them to share their experience and to seek out the many supports that are available to them. “This is something that can happen to anyone anywhere at any time,” he said.

Clement said that given the fact that students who drop out of school are 10 times more likely to end up homeless than those who graduate is one reason that he is also encouraging schools to set up funds for post-secondary schooling to help students secure deposits for tuition and student residence accommodations. “For many students the fact that these deposits are required before their student loans kick in can be a barrier to their securing a spot in a post-secondary school program”.

Students experiencing homelessness and/or poverty should know that there are numerous resources available to them to assist with accommodations so that they do not have to live on the streets. These resources include: Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868); Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000); the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) 1-613-546-4266; Home Base Housing in Kingston (613-542-6672); Kingston Youth Shelter (613-766-3200); Youth Diversion Organization (613-548-4535 ext. 223, as well as Employment Ontario Service, Youth Initiative Canada and Pathways to Education. These organizations all have websites with helpful information and resources.

The performance at NAEC was the final one of this year's Theatre Complete show and NAEC Principal Angela Salmond was pleased that students had the opportunity to see it. “As a rural school we can tend to be insulated and sometimes don't see the challenges facing youth in other areas. For these students to see the production presents an opportunity for them to better understand these particular issues and to see how they might affect their own particular situation here,” she said.


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