Students launch initiative to aid Kingston’s homeless youth

University District

Locals for Locals to collaborate with Kingston’s local shops to create an impact

From left: Benjamin van Aalst, Trailhead owner James Malcolm and Mortiz Wolf.
Credit: 
Supplied by Benjamin van Aalst

In early October, a group of Queen’s commcerce students started Locals for Locals — a project created with the goal of rallying community support for Kingston’s homeless youth. 

The primary goal is to improve the quality of life for homeless youth. Local for Locals also aims to introduce a new relationship between the youth homeless population and the Kingston community.

“It’s not just about making their [homeless youths] lives better,” Benjamin van Aalst, Comm ‘18. “It’s about them being recognized and knowing that other people care about their situation.” 

Locals for Locals was created by van Aalst and his fellow fourth-year students Moritz Wolf, Taylor VandenBygaart and Sandy Hsu as a result of their group project in COMM 351 this semester. According to the University’s webpage, this leadership course “examines the practice and impact of leadership in organizations and communicites as we enter into the 21st century.”

Successful past COMM 351 projects include Exchange Exchange, Glasses for Chile and the Smith School of Business Charity Cup hockey tournament for cancer. 

For their project, students were asked to come up with an idea to improve a modern social problem. Looking back on his own experiences living in the Netherlands, van Aalst immediately thought of Kingston’s homeless population. 

“As an exchange student, we have homeless people in the Netherlands, but I was shocked by the amount of homeless people in Kingston,” van Aalst told The Journal. “I see them every day.” 

Focusing on the downtown core, the group decided to petition local Kingston shops for donations to the Kingston Youth Shelter. 

“We go to restaurants and shops,” Aalst said. “It can be anything. We just want to get the community of Kingston involved.” 

On Nov. 3, van Aalst and his peers went downtown to begin their first collection. They received donations from UNDR, Overstocks, Cloth and Bagot Leather Goods, as well as $400 in products from Trailhead, an outdoor clothing store on Princess Street. 

Despite having three of the four group members return to their home countries in the winter term when their exchange terms come to an end, van Aalst and his peers hope the immediate success of Locals for Locals will cause it to become a permanent Queen’s tradition. 

“There have been assignments [from this course] in the past which have been really successful, and are still going on right now,” van Aaslt said. “When I go back to the Netherlands, I’ll lose my influence and control. That’s why we want this to be as successful as possible.”

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