Breanne Van Den Breemen has felt the impact of homelessness.
While she’s never been without a place to lay her head, the 19-year-old Hamilton native has a close relative who, despite the best efforts of family and local shelters, has experienced homelessness for many years.
“It’s difficult when we’re always wondering where he is and if he’s safe,” said the second-year Brock Bachelor of Arts student. “I wish I could have a greater understanding of who he is and what his life could be like if he had the proper support to have a home.”
The circumstances have had a profound impact on Van Den Breemen’s family and, as a result, she hopes to help raise awareness and support for local services that aid with homelessness in Niagara.
Van Den Breemen will be among about a dozen Brock students who will sleep outside next week as part of the national 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.
From Monday, March 12 to Friday, March 16, the group of volunteers will give up their warm beds to actively raise both funds and awareness for homelessness, particularly among at-risk youth.
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 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, the campaign partners annually with Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, which received more than $3,000 in donations through the 2017 initiative. This year’s team has set a fundraising goal of $5,000.
Goodman School of Business Dean Andrew Gaudes said homelessness is an issue that’s not distant from reality for many people.
“We have to realize that homelessness is all around us and affecting people we know and care about in our region,” he said. “St. Catharines has been declared as a compassionate city by its mayor, and we should be able to demonstrate that by recognizing the importance of this issue and by giving in any we can to help change the outcome of people’s lives.”
The student group is collecting donations — both monetary and non-perishable food — to support Community Care.
“We are grateful to be the recipients of Brock’s 5 Days for the Homeless campaign once again,” said Betty-Lou Souter, CEO of Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold.
“Through this initiative, the issue of homelessness is brought to the forefront in a unique way,” she said. “The outreach of the students is vast and reinforces the importance of supporting those who through no fault of their own do not have the luxury of sleeping in a warm bed with a roof over their heads each and every night.”
Students will be set up outside Mackenzie Chown Complex A Block and will be accepting non-perishable food and cash donations from March 12 to 16. Online donations are also being accepted at 5days.ca/brock throughout March.
A Krispy Kreme doughnut drive was held last month in support of the campaign and the fresh doughnuts will be available for pick up on March 12 from noon to 3 p.m. in Mackenzie Chown A Block.
Donations will also be collected at Niagara IceDogs games at the Meridian Centre on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 11 at 2 p.m.; at Zehrs (Pen Centre) on Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and at the St. Catharines Farmers’ Market on Thursday, March 15 from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
An informal event will be held Friday, March 16 at 9 a.m. in the Scotiabank Atrium of the Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex to end the campaign and recognize the efforts of students.