Living five days on campus for at-risk youth

Don’t be surprised when a group of students appear to be living homeless on your campus next week. They will be participating in a campaign called 5 Days for the Homeless, a student initiative that began in 2005 out of the University of Alberta’s School of Business.

The mission of the campaign is to “increase awareness of the issue of homelessness and to raise donations for charitable organizations supporting homeless and at-risk youth across the country.”

At Capilano University, the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign is run by the Justice Committee (SJC). This is the second year the Capilano Students Union (CSU) has participated in the national campaign.

Most students don’t have the time or money to make an impact on such a pervasive issue,” says Richard McCrae, SJC Coordinator. This [campaign] gives us the capacity to come together, and give some of what we have.”

From March 14-19, five students will sleep outside on campus in an effort to promote awareness about homelessness and raise money for Alternate Shelter Society.

Students will have no income and must rely on direct donations for food and beverages during the campaign. The participants must still attend all classes while a part of the 5 Days campaign.

The SJC has decided proceeds from their campaign will go to Alternate Shelter Society because it “doesn’t fit with the standard shelter method that we’ve seen over the years, it’s for the supremely at-risk [youth] … who have been rejected by other organizations,” says McCrae. “It is really important in particular to support an organization that is taking a stand for these kids.”

Alternate Shelter Society, located in East Vancouver, serves to provide services to a population of youth variously described as ‘abused’, ‘homeless’, ‘at risk’ and ‘behaviourally disordered’. Their mandate is “to care for the children and youth at Alternate Shelter Society the best we can.”

This campaign isn’t about solving homelessness,” says McCrae. “It’s about raising money for a great cause, to help out the kids at Alternate Shelter Society.”

The 5 Days campaign at Capilano is aiming to raise $12,000, which will pay the cost of the accreditation process for Alternate Shelter Society, says McCrae. In the past the government has paid this fee, but the Society was recently told that they would now have to pay for the accreditation process themselves. Without the money, the shelter will be forced to close.

Some students on campus, however, feel that the campaign is not the best way to approach the issue of homelessness.

I think one thing about the 5 Days is that it’s not realistically representing homeless people, getting students to sacrifice themselves for a certain amount of time - but I think you have to look beyond what the students are doing, and all the work that’s gone into creating awareness,” says Charlotte Hill, a Global Stewardship student.

At the recent CFS-BC AGM, the CSU proposed a motion requesting a $500 donation towards the campaign from the CFS-BC. The motion did not pass, for a variety of reasons.

McCrae stressed that although one purposes of the campaign is to promote awareness about homelessness, that is not the main focus of their initiative.

We can do something really great for a small organization and change their standing for the rest of the year, and allow them to invest in kids who really need help,” says McCrae.

The campaign will begin with a Kickoff Party on March 12 at the Ukranian Hall, featuring bands The Boom Booms, Small Town Artillery, and Erica Dee. Tickets are available in the Birch Cafeteria, or at the door for $10, with proceeds going towards Alternate Shelter Society.

The Arts and Entertainment Management Program has also volunteered to support the 5 Days campaign, through their performing arts showcase called artsmash! All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the campaign.

McCrae reflected on the fact that when he ran for Social Justice Coordinator last year, every Capilano student he talked to “said [they] wanted to see more done about the Downtown East Side and homelessness in Vancouver.”

We have proven that students here believe in things, because I’ve seen our group rise up again and again in the face of adversity,” says McCrae. “Regardless of the outcomes of this campaign, we have all gained something truly profound.”

// Samantha Thompson
assistant news editor

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com