Motor Mouth: Automotive exec involves the help of Ontario’s most susceptible

Hyundai Canada’s Don Romano sleeps tough on a cold March night time in assist of 360 Youth, a service for homeless teenagers

My pal Don was born to be a seaside bum, raised in Laguna Seashore, California to an early lifetime of solar and surf. Since then he has lived in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., each locations, he says, the place +50 Celsius was simply the place the thermometer stopped, not essentially how sizzling it really obtained. His sport of alternative is long-distance swimming — which he realized swimming in a heat Californian Pacific ocean — not ice hockey. What I’m making an attempt to say is that, regardless of dwelling the final 16 years within the Nice White Frozen North, Don will not be a cold-blooded Canadian genetically predisposed to shrug off chilly climate.

Which most likely makes it most likely much more traumatic that he slept outdoors final Thursday night time. Sure, as in he was on the road. Homeless. With out domicile. Sleeping tough, as we used to name it in my day.

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I’ll remind you that final Thursday was March 3, 2022, a very chilly day for early March, contemplating that spring — Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog prepared — is correct across the nook. In actual fact, in Newmarket, the place Don needed to sleep tough, it was -12C. That chilliness was made all of the extra bone-numbing as a result of Don was, frankly, woefully unprepared.

Principally, his homeless winter survival gear was a heavy sweatshirt, a windbreaker of questionable thermal insulation, and a toque that might not go muster in April, not to mention a frigid March 3. I attempted to lend him my Canada Goose jacket, however he would have none of it. He was on his personal. So, no shock, Don froze his ‘nads off. Scarier but, his long-suffering spouse, Marilyn, was alongside for this Siberian journey.

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Now, right here’s the factor. My pal Don is Don Romano, the CEO of Hyundai Canada. He — and Marilyn! — should not with out domicile or heat mattress. He has a sizzling chocolate that greets him each morning and he assures me that the water heater in his Stouffville manse treats him to a scalding wake-up name each 5:15 a.m. when he rises to as soon as once more promote some 350 automobiles — the variety of Sonatas, Santa Fes, and Tucsons Hyundai Canada sells each day of the 12 months. In different phrases, my pal Don will not be with no dwelling or means.

With the exception, as I mentioned, March 3. On that night time — and once more, I’m speaking about minus 12C, clad solely in a sweatshirt and a few flimsy polyester shell — he selected to expertise Ontario in all its frigid homeless magnificence. It was a part of his contribution to fixing youth homelessness within the GTA’s York Area. Organized by 360 Children, a corporation completely dedicated to serving any and all of the under-21s which are homeless within the area, the occasion known as 360 Expertise, and primarily it permits sponsors and donors — Hyundai and its sellers kicked in a file $100,000 this 12 months — to expertise precisely the anguish their contributions are supposed to unravel.

And as a lot as I tip my hat to Don, he was however one of many 142 members who volunteered to forgo shelter and heat meals to deliver consideration to the plight of homeless youth. And I’d be horribly remiss in not noting that, amongst these 142 had been seven members of the York Regional Police, together with Chief Jim MacSween, who, armed – for that night time not less than – with solely a sleeping bag, braved the identical nippy circumstances as Don and his spouse.

Now, as a lot as I’d applaud all the opposite volunteers for his or her devotion to trigger, it’s price remembering that the youth that that 360 Children serves do that each night time. On the coldest nights of the 12 months — as within the once-in-20-years snowstorm that pelted southern Ontario simply this previous February 6 — they both discover a shelter to put their weary heads; or else, like Don and his spouse finally did, roam the sub-zero streets, since nobody, not even with essentially the most down-filled of sleeping luggage, sleeps by way of that shit.

Hyundai Canada’s Don Romano and others participating in the 360 Experience event March 3, 2022 for youth homelessness
Hyundai Canada’s Don Romano and others taking part within the 360 Expertise occasion March 3, 2022 for youth homelessnessPhotograph by through Don Romano

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And that’s the place 360 Children steps up. A full-service referral system, CEO Clovis Grant says that his group does all the things from discovering its “shoppers” an emergency place to remain; to supplying dependancy intervention and long-term counseling. It organizes education schemes, employment alternatives and solves well being issues. Each month, its Dwelling Base in Richmond Hill serves greater than 200 homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 13 to 26. There’s even a gang intervention unit — Management Engagement Gang Intervention Group, or LEGIT — that mediates, resolves and even gives authorized assist if it’s wanted. In different phrases, it gives a 360-degree — therefore the identify — strategy to the care of its younger shoppers, one thing it does so twelve months of the 12 months, together with days of biting chilly like this previous March 12.

As for describing how exhausting it’s to sleep tough in these circumstances, I’ll simply quote Don, thanks very a lot, as a result of, properly, I didn’t have the cojones to expertise life on the streets: “It was the hardest factor I’ve ever been by way of. We ended up strolling for a lot of the night time. Oh, we made a feeble try to sleep on the frozen floor subsequent to a large generator a bus depot, however after an hour we had been simply to chilly to get any shut-eye. So we packed up,” he stories.

“We thought of cooping up in a bus shelter, however there have been already individuals there, so Marilyn and I simply walked the streets for the remainder of the night time. We will need to have walked 10 miles. I can’t even start to think about doing this each night time. However, the chilly simply saps your vitality. It was twice as powerful as essentially the most troublesome marathon I’ve ever run [Don’s run well over 20 marathons, by the way].”

That hasn’t, nonetheless, stopped from already signing up for subsequent 12 months’s 360 Expertise. I like my pals just a bit loopy.

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