Brock students sleep outside; raise awareness of youth homelessness in Niagara

Brock logo this oneBrock University press release – Monica Gola-Macdonald has never been homeless, but she has a lot of compassion for those who are.

The first-year Brock University accounting student is part of a group who is sleeping outside this week as part of the national 5 Days for the Homeless campaign to raise funds and awareness for homelessness, particularly among at-risk youth.

“A lot of people walk by homelessness and don’t think about it but we’re trying to bring to their attention how prevalent of an issue this is in our community,” Gola-Macdonald said.

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.

“These students are willing to give up their luxuries to help us raise awareness on campus of these issues and we’re so grateful to them for stepping up to participate,” said Karen Lau, a fourth year business student and the Vice President of Human Resources for the Goodman Business Students’ Association (BSA) who is taking a lead role in planning Brock’s involvement in the campaign.

“Youth homelessness is real and it’s not something that should be overlooked. People often do not realize how fortunate they are to live under a roof and to have meals every single day,” she said. “Sometimes we have to take a step back from our own situation in order to help a cause like this that is very real in our community.”

The Goodman Business Students’ Association partners annually with Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold on 5 Days initiative, which saw donations of more than $7,500 last year. This year’s team has set a fundraising goal of $10,000.

The student group is collecting donations — both monetary and non-perishable food — to support Community Care’s Housing Help program, which Catherine Livingston says will have a big impact on the local community.

“Any initiative to bring awareness to the public is vital and has significant impact,” said Livingston, Manager of Housing Help for Community Care, St. Catharines and Thorold. “Youth homelessness is on the rise, so the discussion and the issues need to be kept in the forefront.”

“The awareness created by this initiative articulates the issue of homelessness nationally,” said Betty-Lou Souter, CEO of Community Care, St. Catharines and Thorold.

“Having these young people tell the story of homelessness through their eyes is very impactful. I commend their concern and commitment to community.”

Students are set up outside along McKenzie Chown A Block and will be accepting non-perishable food and cash donations until March 24. Online donations are also being accepted at 5days.ca/brock throughout the month of March.

There is a Music Trivia Night at 6:30 p.m. on March 20 and Karaoke Night on March 22 at 8 p.m. in support of the initiative. Both events will take place at Skybar Lounge.