Students push to erase stigma and raise awareness for the homeless
On Friday March 11 five Sir Wilfrid Laurier University students will sleep outside in an effort to raise awareness about homelessness through the campaign 5 Days for the Homeless.
5 Days was founded in 2005 at the University of Alberta. Since then, with 19 universities across Canada participating, the campaign has raised over $1.6 million. Unfortunately, a school from Toronto has yet to step up and run their own 5 Days campaign.
Josh Redler, the National Co-chair of 5 Days for Homeless, told Humber News that the idea has been given to them but none have stepped forward.
“None of them have come forward with the initiative…it’s been put out to them. We don’t try to force it on them but I’m not sure why they haven’t taken the initiative but hopefully in the future they will.”
The campaign isn’t solely for universities, colleges are more than welcome to participate as well even though it’s yet to be done.
“In the past I’ve been approached by other schools and I’ve said yes, none have actually gone through and done it. I’ve never said no to anyone,” said Redler.
“I believe there is power in empathy and advocacy and the best way to be an advocate is to put yourself in the shoes of another… it is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and funds for youth experiencing homelessness.”- Lindsey Feltis, Laurier student and participant
5 Days allows students to experience what homelessness might feel like, or at least get close to the cause.
“Something I find 5 Days does is it puts you out there for 120 hours of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Yes it’s not the 100% experience, I know that, it’s a little bit of a privilege because you do have friends that will support you, you do have a community, a campus that is behind you.”
Sara Cousineau is a Honours Global Studies student at Laurier who has been involved with 5 Days over the last four years, and this year is the director of the organizing committee.
“Since my first year, I have been a Participant, a Special Events Director, the Participant Manager, and now I am Director. This campaign has become more than something I volunteer in, but a part of my every day life,” Cousineau told Humber News.
The impact on Cousineau from being involved with 5 Days has changed her outlook on what being homeless means.
“The most significant thing I have learned through my experiences with 5 Days for the Homeless is that it can truly happen to anyone. Homelessness is not a foreign issue. It is right in our community, in the lives of our peers and it could be in our life without the proper financial flexibility and support.”
Lindsey Feltis, a Psychology and Communications student in her second year, decided to become a participant experiencing homelessness after being on the organizing committee during her first year at Laurier, and seeing the impact that it had on the community.
“I joined 5 days because I believe there is power in empathy and advocacy and the best way to be an advocate is to put yourself in the shoes of another… it is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and funds for youth experiencing homelessness.”
Feltis encourages those outside of the Waterloo area to stay involved, saying that the participants will be having blogs updated and videos that anyone can see.
Both Cousineau and Feltis agree that they want the campaign to go beyond the money raised and have leave a lasting impression.
“I hope we reach our $25, 000 dollar goal, but I also wish that we continue to change people’s minds on the negative stigmas around homelessness,” said Cousineau.
The money that Laurier is able to raise supports the Argus Residence for Young People as well as oneROOF Youth Services.
“I hope,” Feltis said, “that we spark a conversation that needs to be had and I hope we raise a heck of a lot of awareness and funds for the amazing shelters we are supporting.”
Redler emphasizes that the campaign is certainly more geared towards the awareness than the money being raised.
“The cause primarily is to increase awareness nationwide and hopefully worldwide at some point. And I think giving money to the campaign is fantastic but one thing I try and push is the humanization of people across the country.”
As for helping out firsthand in different communities, Redler adds that it doesn’t take a huge movement to make a difference.
“Regardless of whatever walk of life you are in or come from, just treating people like people. Give them a sandwich, say hello to them, something as small as that that doesn’t really change your day can change their life.”