Taking it to the streets
Executive director admits limitations of experiment, but values experience nonetheless
The time of year is a busy one for most people, including organizations that help Moose Jaw’s less fortunate.
Riverside Mission is gearing up to host its Christmas dinner and to send mail outs to raise money. Also, as the busy season gets going, the mission’s director, Scott Elger, will be taking to the streets to try to raise awareness about homelessness and educate himself further about the struggles of those facing it.
“I am going to spend the night out on the streets,” he said.
Starting Tuesday, Elger will spend three nights out on the streets of the city where he will have limited resources available to him, similar to many of the clients he assists.
“I can only avail myself of what’s available to people who come off the streets to the mission,” he said.
During the day Elger will continue with his regular duties working at the mission. He explained this is similar to what many homeless people have to deal with in their day-to-day life.
“They still have to live during the day, even though they don’t have a place to sleep at night,” he said.
Elger added that he is going to do all that he can to make sure the experience is as real as possible.
“I won’t be going home or … letting myself into the mission at three o’clock in the morning because I am cold,” he said.
“I personally have no streets experience what so ever,” he said.
This year is not the first time that Elger and the mission have used this type of experiment, however. Last year the mission director spent three evenings on the roof of the mission to try to replicate the homeless experience. It did not turn out as he had hoped.
“Being on the roof last year brought us a lot of attention, but it didn’t … replicate what some of our people go through, it really backfired,” he said.
Elger had originally been challenged to step into his clients’s shoes by the staff at the mission, and had considered trying to sleep in a car. He tries to be sensitive to truly homeless people when undertaking his experiment.
“I didn’t want to insult people who truly face homelessness,” he said. “I am not out there by force, I choose to do it.”
Elger said that he hopes that what he is doing will give him a better understanding of what people without a place to stay go through, specifically, people who, because of severe addictions or other mental health issues, cannot be helped by Riverside Mission. Elger admits his experience is not completely authentic.
“I don’t have all the insecurities that truly homeless people have, it comes to an end when I decide it does, and they don’t have that,” he said.
Elger said that he also hopes to raise awareness about some of the needs that Riverside Mission is facing going into the future. The mission has some big capital expenses coming up, including work on their boiler. It costs $30,000 a month to keep the mission and all the programs it puts on going. With all of these current and future costs, Elger said he hopes what he is doing will also get some public attention.
“Hopefully it will garner the attention of the media, and it’ll bring attention to the mission,” he said. “Christmas is one of our fundraising times.”
Scott Elger, director of Riverside Mission, will be on the streets of Moose Jaw starting Tuesday and ending Thursday to raise awareness about homelessness and hopefully learn some things himself.