When Tara Shanks learned how many Victoria youth wake up without gifts on Christmas morning, she jumped into action.
It was Christmas 2017 when she first started creating stockings for young people supported by Threshold Housing Society. Two years later she’s nearly finished the adoption process for three young girls and her stocking-stuffing efforts have more than tripled.
Threshold Housing Society works to prevent adult homelessness by providing safe housing, support services and community to at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24. Many of the youth Threshold serves are about to age out of foster care or have already aged out of care.
Shanks’ heart broke when she learned that many of young people in Threshold housing rarely woke up to gifts on Christmas morning.
“In Victoria, youth homelessness is a huge issue that kind of gets missed sometimes. … There’s so many people who need help but I just found for this age group, people are less aware,” Shanks said. “As soon as [Threshold] said [youth] have never received a stocking, I had to help…it’s just so different from the world I grew up in.”
Now the community of Oak Bay, where Shanks runs a small business, helps out too. Gift and cash donations pour in and help the family fill stockings for every youth in Threshold programs. Shanks says her daughters love the process of giving back.
“Now for our girls who have joined us from foster care and were adopted over the age of 10, the idea that some of those kids have aged out [of care] really means something to them. They understand what that feeling could be like.
“The biggest part for me, with the stockings, is not so much that they get the stuff, which is lovely … it’s that they know the community sees them. That to me is the real message there,” Shanks added. “We see you, we acknowledge you, you’re important.”
Jasmine Campbell, development coordinator at Threshold Society, echoed Shanks sentiment, and explained that the youth served by Threshold are often categorized as the ‘hidden homeless.’
She said while many go to high school or post secondary, at the end of the day, they don’t have a safe, stable place to go home to.
“Often that’s not something you can see. So if you can’t see it, you won’t think about it.”
Campbell said the stockings will go to young people who aren’t expecting anything on Christmas morning.
“They’re going to wake up to gifts under the tree, and that’s all thanks to community members like Tara and the people who have come forward to help make that possible,” she said. “I feel like it tells that they’re not alone this Christmas. They have an entire community supporting them.”
To support Shanks and her Christmas stockings, you can drop off items like chocolate, candy, decks of cards, tools and other small items to A La Mode Consignment in Oak Bay or by emailing Shanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about how you can help youth supported by thresholdhousing.ca/get-involved/.
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