Balan Moorthy is a dunk tank veteran.
D.W. Poppy Secondary School’s principal figures he’s taken the plunge “10 or 15 times” for different causes.
Moorthy once again sat on the plank Saturday as part of an outdoor concert and fundraiser at Willoughby Community Park.
When his turn ended, Moorthy warmed himself next to a barbecue grill, and spoke about why he spent part of his day plummeting into a chilly pool of water – again, and again, and again.
When it comes to raising funds and awareness for Langley youth struggling to find a place to lay their heads at night, Moorthy is more than willing to get wet.
Langley principals including Moorthy, took turns dropping in the dunk tank during the fundraiser.
“This is an amazing event for the youth in Langley,” Moorthy said. “A lot of the times we assume that all the kids that we have in our schools have places to live. The truth is, there are some that don’t.”
Last year, there were 162 youth homeless or at risk of being homeless in Langley.
But there is no shelter for them to go to, locally.
This is why all proceeds from the Sept. 24 event will go towards a potential emergency youth shelter in Langley.
Loren Roberts, the director of operations and organizational development with Encompass Support Services Society, said the 162 youth counted last year only included those who had accessed Encompass’s services.
“Out of those , 53 of them were actually homeless,” Roberts said. “Now, that’s no where close to the number of adult homeless… but at the same time, we know how many youth who we have to send outside of our community for housing and shelter space and for us, it’s just going to continue to get worse, we feel.”
Roberts believes the possibility of a youth shelter existing in Langley City is very real.
“The argument I always make is, they were able to put something like the Gateway Of Hope together,” Roberts said. “Even if you look at the shelter beds that they have, where it’s between, like, 30 and 45 shelter beds, we’re asking for, like, six to 10 for youth, so the feasibility… it’s there, for sure.”
Langley outreach worker Fraser Holland from Starting Point said the homelessness cycle is difficult to escape.
“When looking at the continuum of homelessness, it is widely recognized that the longer a person is exposed to being homeless the more complicated the exit from homelessness becomes,” Holland said.
Holland said without the necessary resources to offer Langley at-risk youth, they will be exposed to situations that “can hamper healthy life skill development and create a distrust in services and systems that will be needed, as they go through life and situations that will influence the rest of their lives.”
“Investing in our youth is an important component of investing in the future of our community,” Holland noted.
As for Saturday’s concert, Moorthy said this drive for a youth shelter in the community is powered by Langley students.
He added, “We have a responsibility to take care of our youth and to do it in a fun event like this, I think a lot of the community realizes you can just put some money into it and it’s going to a good cause.”
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In his experience, Moorthy said he has come across students in this precarious situation.
“There are students who are in care, they are transitioning away from their homes for whatever reason and as a result, they don’t have a permanent place to live,” he said. “Sometimes they move from house to house to house.”
Moorthy believes poverty isn’t always the root cause for youth homelessness: “A lot of the times there are issues of abuse, whether it’s mental or physical abuse, they just feel the home environment is not for them, and sometimes it’s an issue of substance abuse. And the worst case scenario is when you get young teens who are lured into prostitution.”
At the end of the day, he said, “we can all do more” to help kids struggling to find shelter.
“This event allows us to reach out and to understand that, with everything we do in schools, we consistently reach out to the global world,” he said. “The truth is, there are people we need to assist who are right in our backyard.”
The day included interactive booths, food, and a wide variety of entertainment including the Langley Fundamental School Band, Brookswood Secondary School Band, Langley Fine Arts Band, R.E. Mountain Secondary Band, Lisa’s School of Dance, Daniel Wesley, Vitality Dance, DJ Coco and Missy D, Robyn and Ryleigh Gillespie, Jenny Bara, and Her Brothers Band.