At the Best Western Brant Park Inn on Tuesday, 20 local restaurants, caterers and social agencies proffered their finest soups in a taste-test competition to benefit St. Leonard’s Community Services.
“Youth homelessness is a barrier to the health, education, employment, safety and well-being of youth in our city, contributing to problems of drug abuse, teen pregnancy and crime rates,” said the evening’s MC, Jewel 92 morning host Ed McMahon.
Now in its eighth year, the soup challenge will help St. Leonard’s provide more beds for homeless youth in need of transitional housing.
In the spring, St. Leonard’s will open a new, eight-bed transitional residence on Buffalo Street for young women and a residence of equal size on Albion Street for young men.
Youth can stay at these residences for up to a year while they sort out their work, school and living situations.
The soup challenge was part of Youth Homelessness Week, run by St. Leonard’s as a way to raise awareness of the issue of youth homelessness.
Events ran throughout the week, including a march from city hall to the St. Leonard’s Youth Resource Centre and an open house at St. Leonard’s Brant Employment Centre.
Awareness events continue on Thursday with a pasta dinner at St. John’s College and a barbecue at St. Leonard’s at 133 Elgin St. on Friday.
A group of Laurier Brantford staff, students and volunteers will brave the cold Thursday night to sleep outside in the school courtyard from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. as a fundraiser for St. Leonard’s.
Brant MPP Dave Levac said some constituents have told him they don’t think homelessness exists in Brantford.
“They never took a walk underneath Lorne Bridge. They never took a walk behind the civic centre,” Levac said of the skeptics. “They didn’t see because they didn’t want to see.”
Levac thanked St. Leonard’s staff for acknowledging the problem of youth homelessness and “putting their hearts and minds together to solve it.”
Chef Matt Osborn of Devlin’s Country Bistro was glad to offer food and labour in support of a good cause.
“It’s one of those events where you have to put the finances on the back burner and put the focus on helping those in the community who aren’t as fortunate,” Osborn said.