Students go homeless to raise funds
SASKATOON — The small things are becoming big inconveniences for five University of Saskatchewan students pretending to be homeless and sleeping outside this week for a fundraiser.
The annual 5 Days for the Homeless campaign — last year it raised $15,000 for the Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre Inc. (EGADZ) — started Sunday. At a Tuesday media event, the participants said they quickly learned some tough lessons. They aren’t allowed to use cellphones, a near-necessity for most people.
“It’s frustrating to find one of us around campus,” said Ariel Fitzgerald, an international development student. “We can’t just text each other. You don’t think about little things like that.”
Other rules for the students include having no income, no food or drinks, except through donations, and no access to campus showers or facilities (public washrooms can be used during regular hours). They must attend all classes.
“Somebody gave me a banana and that kind of just made me happy,” business student Victor Valois said.
Every night is a learning experience about the daily struggle of homelessness, said Ryan Luciuk, an agricultural student. All five participants said they have not personally experienced homelessness.
“We’re taking homelessness and throwing it in the faces of students because we want them to know that this is a real thing,” Luciuk said. “This little reality we’re living in ends in five days, but the point we’re trying to get across is that this is real and goes on for weeks, months, years for some people.”
A United Way homelessness count in Saskatoon in September 2012 found 379 homeless people, including 72 who were sleeping outside.
Money and items such as clothes and perishable foods collected by the students go to EGADZ, the Saskatoon organization that works with at-risk youth.
“WE’RE TAKING HOMELESSNESS AND THROWING IT IN THE FACES OF STUDENTS BECAUSE WE WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT THIS IS A REAL THING.”
The annual event happens on campuses across the country and has to date raised more than $1.2 million nationwide. The U of S group set a goal of raising $17,000 this year.
This is the first year the U of S event opened up the challenge to colleges other than the Edwards School of Business. Students Hawa Baloch and Matthew Lachica are also participating this year.
The group is hosting a barbecue on campus today between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., with all proceeds going to EGADZ.