Five students from Edwards School of Business will be spending the nights of March 9–13 sleeping outside in an effort to raise awareness and money for the annual 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.
5 Days for the Homeless is a Canada-wide campaign consisting of groups at universities across the country. Students agree to sleep outside for five nights on their campus with only the clothes they’re wearing, a sleeping bag and a pillow. The participants are not allowed to use facilities which their student status would normally grant them access to and all food and money must be donated to them. Additionally, the students are expected to attend all regular classes and extracurricular activities.
“You’re outside in only a sleeping bag and jacket and you open your eyes and there’s snow everywhere. The first night it really hits you and you become aware of how cold it can be not sleeping inside,” said David Liebrecht, the U of S group’s vice-president internal affairs, who was a homeless participant in last year’s campaign.
The group is hoping to raise $15,000 this year, up from last year’s total of $13,689. All donations will be given directly to Egadz, a local organization aiming to support at-risk youth by providing housing, parenting programs and other outreach programs.
“We’re so honoured. It’s really special that young people are trying to make a difference and to they care about this issue,” said Don Meikle, the acting executive director of Egadz.
The 5 Days campaign will be collecting donations around campus throughout the week. In addition to monetary donations, students can donate items on the Egadz wish list — winter clothing, hygiene products as well as non-perishable and dry food. Donations can be given campaign participants, who will visiting class rooms throughout the week or placed in donation boxes set up around campus. Alternatively, donations can be made online at 5days.ca/saskatchewan.
As part of the campaign, the group has several events planned. On March 12, they will host a barbecue from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. outside of the Thorvaldson building. The campaign wraps up with a steak night on March 14 at the Sutherland Bar.
Alex Denysiuk, one of this year’s five homeless participants, said she got involved in the campaign after talking to participants in last year’s campaign.
“I think I wanted to sleep outside mainly because of the people I talked to last year and to get more of an experience of what the homeless actually face,” Denysiuk said. “I think actually being a homeless participant is one way to get involved and to really get to know” what it is like being homeless.
Liebrecht said that although everyone involved in the 5 Days campaign had their own reasons for joining, that they are all united by one common principle.
“The consensus around the committee is that they want to give back to the community. It’s just giving a support system to people in the community,” Liebrecht said. “And if you get down to specifics, maybe certain people have their own experiences with homelessness — like maybe they’ve got a friend who’s classified as homeless.”
The group spent their first night outside on March 9. The evening was not without trials. The participants slept behind the Thorvaldson building beside the Agri-Food Canada greenhouses and had their already restless sleep cut short by the buildings’ automated lights at 4 a.m.
With temperatures projected to hover around the zero degree mark all week, the weather forecast for this year’s campaign is already looking favorable. Last year, the temperature dipped to as low as -27 degrees Celsius with windchill with overnight.
Though the official rules of the 5 Days campaign say participants can move inside if “inclement weather becomes a health risk,” Leibrecht and his fellow participants decided to forgo the suggestion and brave the night.
“It was five guys last year and you know how that atmosphere around that is, so we kinda pressured each other to stay out. We actually ended up sleeping under the law building, so we didn’t get the full -27 degrees Celsius experience.”
5 Days for the Homeless began at the University of Alberta’s business school and became a national campaign in 2008. Edwards School of Business has been participating since the first year of the national campaign. However, for the first time this year, 5 Days for the Homeless is a ratified campus club rather than operating as a sub group under the Edward’s School of Business Student Society.
“We’re totally separate and have our own identity and that just helps us with diversification on campus. We’re really hoping that in future years that we can get people from Engineering and Arts,” Liebrecht said.