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By: Imran Dhalla and Rachel Connell, 5 Day participants
Homelessness: it is not an uncommon phrase or an unrealistic life, as one in five youth in Ontario identify with this phrase. How about hopelessness? I’m sure you can relate to that one. Somebody you know has been homeless at some point in their life, and someone you know feels hopeless every day as they struggle to find food, a safe space to sleep, and sit lost in a town full of people passing by.
The DeGroote School of Business’ “5 Days For The Homeless” is taking on one of the biggest struggles faced by our community as well as communities all around the world. This initiative is working to make a small but crucial difference by advocating the voices of those who feel hopeless and without a safe space to turn.
Recently criticized for giving a false idea of what street homelessness looks like, it should be noted that the “5 Days For The Homeless” campaign hosts sleepers who are not pretending to be homeless in any attempt to force sympathy from passers-by. The world doesn’t need to give their sympathy, we’ve all passed by and sympathized with these issues for years now. The world needs action, and that’s what we’ve sparked here at McMaster. One in 11 Canadians have been homeless in their lifetime, and these middle class campaign sleepers are pledging much more than “poverty porn.” You’re most definitely not donating your dollars or chicken noodle soup cans to suit their needs, but on the contrary, “5 Days for the Homeless” has been working directly with The Good Shepherd house in Hamilton. The Good Shepherd house is a centre dedicated to helping distressed youth in Hamilton. The space is not just for the homeless, and not just troubled youth, but it also addresses physical and mental health concerns and needs.
In the past few years, the “5 Days for the Homeless” has worked with the Good Shepherd house to help distressed youths in a number of ways. This includes: helping replace beds and mattresses, supporting to their homework program, and giving financial assistance to the 716 admissions they’ve seen this year alone. 260 of those were able to remain in the youth shelter, and 301 through Ontario Work were able to pay rent, afford meals and do their laundry independently.
It might seem like a nuisance or a contradiction for some to see middle class students sleep outside the Student Centre collecting money and other items for their campaign, but the reality is, they aren’t the focus. The focus of the campaign is not to glamorize the lifestyle, or suggest that we could ever have a clue what these people face in their day to days, but the focus will always remain embedded in the desire to help the youth in our own backyards who remain on the streets. To act out on the terrible hardships they’ve been handed, and to do something with the resources we have on campus to better our community.
The world doesn’t need to give their sympathy, we’ve all passed by and sympathized with these issues for years now. The world needs action, and that’s what we’ve sparked here at McMaster.
It is vital for these impressionable kids to tangibly see that we care and give them hope that what we’re doing has more value in society than an acting skit or sympathy scheme. The money 5 Days raises annually, and the advocacy this club brings are proof of a program that works. The sleepers not only pledge to commit a huge chunk of their time towards participating, but proudly stand alongside these youth with the opportunity to become mentors, provide in-house assistance, and create friendships that continue to have positive impacts long after the time of the campaign.
Is it a false idea of what homelessness is? Or is it false to assume that good people bringing good change must have some sort of loophole? It is justified to be skeptical about any campaign that claims to make a difference, but we can’t expect to change anything if we believe the change is too big for us. 5 Days for the Homeless tries and succeeds with a strong impact on the community and city.