Brock students brave cold nights for homelessness awareness campaign

Heather Bernie has never been homeless, but she knows how tough it is to sleep outside in the cold.

For five days last year, the business student slept outside Taro Hall to help raise awareness about youth homelessness in Niagara.

She’s doing it again March 7-11 along with a group of other Brock University students participating in the national 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.

Giving up these daily conveniences is just the tip of the iceberg that is homelessness.

“5 Days has shown me how we take our lifestyle for granted and that there are people in our local community who need our help,” Bernie says. “Giving up these daily conveniences is just the tip of the iceberg that is homelessness. There are many other struggles that the homeless may have to deal with on a daily basis, including abuse and negative perceptions from the public.”

Students participating in the campaign give up necessities and comforts such as shelter, proper sleeping arrangements, access to food (except what is donated to them), heat, lighting and showers. 

With the exception of using technology for homework and sharing their experience on social media to promote the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign, students will give up their smartphones and laptops while continuing to attend class throughout the week.

Organized by the Goodman Business Students’ Association (BSA), the campaign supports Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold.

BSA President Rudy Ambrosio says the purpose of the campaign is about starting the conversation about youth homelessness on campus.

“Students are not necessarily trying to replicate homelessness, but are trying to connect with their peers on a more personal level about the hardships and issues that homeless people face every day,” he says. “Every dollar raised can have a huge impact on homelessness in our local community. By working together, homelessness can be better understood.”

Betty-Lou Souter, CEO of Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, says this event has a lot of impact in Niagara.

“This campaign tells the story of homelessness through the eyes of university students to a completely different audience that we do not normally reach,” she says.

“It’s more impactful to hear the messaging from young people than from those of us who deliver the services.”

Students will be set up in front of Taro Hall and will be accepting non-perishable food and cash donations for Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold from March 7-11. Online donations are also being accepted at throughout the month of March.

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