Bags of Promise looks to support youth facing homelessness

First supply drive held Feb. 5

Bags of Promise is working to support marginalized communities. 
Journal File Photo

Queen’s and the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada co-founded Bags of Promise, a student organization that seeks to support youth experiencing homelessness in Kingston. 

The organization aims to supply youth aged 13 to 24 with resources and supplies in a humanizing way. Bags of Promise held their first supply drive on Feb. 5. 

“Bags of Promise was started in spring of 2021 with my co-founder, Brook Baker. The goal was to eliminate the use of trash bags, and replace these with reusable bags for homeless youth,” Celina Lovisotto, Kins ’24 and co-founder of Bags of Promise, said in an interview with The Journal.

Lovisotto said the organization was informed by Baker, who is from the RMC, and experienced homelessness in Calgary before attending university. 

Lovisotto said the organization aims to address the complexity of housing situations in Kingston through reusable bags filled with supplies.  

“Homelessness can look different for everyone, whether that's going from friends' couches, whether that's just living out of your car or staying in hotels [...] Carrying belongings around in a trash bag is very dehumanizing.”

The bags include essential supplies and necessities.

“We fill them with different sorts of products. This includes hygiene products, basic necessities, school supplies, snacks, water bottles, masks—just different things that sometimes we don't think twice about,” Lovisotto said. 

Erin Mlynaryk, ArtSci ’24 and advocacy director for Bags of Promise, said an important part of the organization’s advocacy goals is outreach.

“Advocacy is all about engaging with members of the community in order to represent the experiences of homeless youth,” Mlynaryk said in an interview with The Journal.  

Bags of Promise hopes to recognize individualized experiences. Lovisotto said this is especially the case when working to support LGBTQ+ youth populations. 

“We have taken into consideration that there are different genders as well. We have female-specific bags, as well as male and gender-neutral bags,” Lovisotto said. 

Going forward, Lovisotto wishes to see the organization expand and develop relationships with established organizations in other municipalities. 

“We want to collaborate with influential leaders, and we hope to expand to other regions. In Toronto, they have different organizations like the Thunder Woman House, which is a specific organization for a homeless Indigenous woman,” Lovisotto explained. 

“Collaborating with those organizations and bringing Bags of Promise into those realms will hopefully help to expand our demographic and increase the representation for individuals who are marginalized.”

In terms of Kingston- and Queen’s-specific issues, Lovisotto and Mlynaryk said there’s a capacity crunch in Kingston shelters during the winter months. 

Some campus initiatives like Good Times Diner have been quite helpful.

“Between the pandemic and the colder months of the year, the use of the shelters has increased for sure,” Mlynaryk said. 

“Every situation looks different for youth […] Some individuals are coming with lots of clothes and suitcases, and some individuals are just coming with the things on their back,” Lovisotto said.

Mlynaryk said Queen’s students can play an important part in their organization by signing up for Bags of Promise’s mentorship program. 

“We are hopefully implementing a mentorship program in the future under the advocacy programme. Our goal is going to be to pair Queen’s students with youth who are experiencing or at risk for homelessness.”

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