You may never have to experience what it’s like to be homeless, but millions of others across Canada have and continue to.
For the sixth year in a row, Brock University students will be taking part in the national 5 Days for the Homeless campaign. It began in 2005 at the University of Alberta when students decided that homelessness was an issue that needed and deserved more awareness.
Since then, students from 25 schools across Canada have partnered together to raise awareness, money and non-perishable foods for homeless shelters across the country. To do this, students collectively give up basic necessities for five days while sleeping and spending their time outside.
This year, Brock students will be campaigning outside Mackenzie Chown Block A from March 20 to 24.
“We’re trying to promote awareness by being outside and showing people what it’s like to be homeless,” said Michael Beal, the Director of Corporate Relations for 5 Days for the Homeless. “The goal is that the campaign will teach people to learn and care about our homeless communities and [that they will] hopefully donate what they can, whether that’s some time, money or food.”
Beal explained that students who choose to volunteer outside and advocate for the homeless are still allowed to go to class and fulfill other requirements during the five days of the campaign.
“Since they’re volunteer positions, we can’t make students stay outside for the full five days,” said Beal. “We encourage students to stay as long as they would like but ultimately they pick and choose their hours. Some choose to stay the full time while others only stay a day or two. Every bit of time counts.”
As for donations, Beal explained that there will be three different options. The Brock community can choose to donate food and drinks to the volunteers who are spending their time outside, or they can choose to leave non-perishable food and/or items to be donated to homeless shelters in the Niagara Region. Additionally, students, staff and faculty are welcome to donate any amount of money they choose.
Last year, according to Beal, Brock students raised over $7000 in monetary donations and roughly $3000 in food to be donated to homeless shelters. Across the country, schools raised a combined $235,000 in 2016. This year’s goal is from $10,000 to $15,000.
This year Brock’s team will also be accepting unused cleaning products as a form of donation because the students wants to give all students and community members the opportunity to contribute in some sort of way whether it’s giving their time, donating money, or giving unused goods such as food or care products.
“This year we are also partnering with the Volunteerism and Leadership Living Learning Community in Brock Residence to help with collecting food donations from students living on campus,” said Beal.
The Brock Press had an opportunity to speak to this year’s peer mentor for the volunteerism living learning community, Courtney Kelly.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the students living in residence to give back to our local community while also supporting our fellow Badgers,” said Kelly. “Homelessness is extremely prevalent in our city and being students, I think we tend to forget the responsibility we have to give back to the place we call home for eight months of the year.”
Giving back to the community can be easy when there are so many options available to volunteer time or donate goods. While students may never truly understand what it’s like to be homeless, they can definitely do something, and be a part of something, in order to help.
Students who would like to volunteer by campaigning outside for 5 Days for the Homeless from March 20 to 24 are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.