Youth homelessness advocate completes cross-country walk pushing a shopping cart

VANCOUVER — A man who lived on the streets of Vancouver as a teenager will push a shopping cart through the city’s rough-and-tumble Downtown Eastside once again on Friday, but this time will mark the end of a cross-country journey to raise awareness about youth homelessness.

Joe Roberts, 50, began his The Push For Change campaign in Newfoundland 17 months ago to visit schools and communities to discuss the issues that lead to youth homelessness and raise funds to support prevention programs.

Having gone from a homeless teen to finding success in business and technology in a 12-year span, Roberts said he decided to leave the corporate world in the early 2000s to do workshops and help people understand why some youths end up on the street.

“I represent all the key antecedents that create the phenomena of youth homelessness in this country,” he said in an interview. ”I had early childhood trauma … I had the early introduction to alcohol and drugs to deal with the emotional instability in my life. By the time I was 15, I had family conflict, which is the number one reason why kids end up homeless.”

Roberts said his father died while he was growing up in Midland, Ont. He later experimented with drugs, dropped out of school, left home and headed to Vancouver.

Living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, he said he called his mother, who tracked him down and brought him home.

As he struggled with mental health issues, Roberts said he finally connected with the right treatment after the Ontario Provincial Police de-escalated a suicide attempt.

Roberts would go on to complete his education and eventually return to Vancouver and establish a technology company.

“I was able to get that second break I needed,” he said. “When I came back the second time, with some foundation and sobriety under my belt, I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams in the business community.”

Looking back on that time, Roberts said there were many key moments where interventions could have prevented homelessness.

He decided to support the charity Raising The Roof because it connects youth with supports before they wind up on the street.

Roberts said he wanted to push a shopping cart across the country as a symbol of chronic homelessness. Because his route meant dealing with unpaved highway shoulder in the winter, he worked with Vancouver high school students to design a cart that uses a more durable baby stroller as its base.

The cart survived the journey with only two or three wheel replacements along the way. Roberts said the ice and snow he encountered around Lake Superior through February and March posed the greatest challenge, but the stories of the young people he met along the way kept him going.

The Push For Change has raised over $540,000 in addition to the sponsorships that covered the costs of the campaign. Roberts also spoke at hundreds of schools, met with mayors, police departments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and government officials.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said, adding that he’ll continue promoting the issue after the walk is over on Friday.

Just Posted

Alberta’s status of women minister joins Twitter debate over women’s marches

EDMONTON — A minister in Alberta’s NDP government has chastised a tweet… Continue reading

Hot summer ticket: $130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic off Newfoundland

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Are you a risk-taking adventurer with $130,000 to… Continue reading

Metro Vancouver cities, residents to oppose Trans Mountain route at hearings

VANCOUVER — Municipalities and residents in British Columbia are set to argue… Continue reading

Unemployment rate and EI beneficiaries down in Central Alberta

The unemployment rate for Red Deer region and the number of people… Continue reading

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month