Participant Malcolm Radke indicated that sleeping outside hadn’t shook their confidence.
“It was definitely a culture shock, but our first night we were really just excited and enthusiastic to get started,” he said.
Daphne Taras, dean of ESB, spoke about the achievements of last year’s students.
“I know that they are completely committed to the cause,” she announced. “When our students do things, they roll up their sleeves and get things done. This is part of a long tradition that the ESB has had of students who have involved themselves in community events. They have my support and admiration,” Taras added.
ESB students once again chose the Saskatoon youth centre EGADZ as the campaign’s funding recipient. EGADZ has been operating in Saskatoon since April 1990 and works with the city to support and educate at-risk youth.
Last year, 5 Days Saskatoon raised $12,000 for the centre. This year, organizers decided to step it up to $15,000 locally and hope to achieve a nation wide goal of $200,000.
EGADZ organizing director Bill Thibodeau commended the 5 Days campaign for achieving more than monetary success in previous years.
“EGADZ has been a beneficiary in the past,” he said, “and the benefit has been not just the financial end, it has been the goods and the items that have come in that help us as tools to the work that we need to do in order to change things and make a difference.”
Recently appointed city councilor Mairin Loewen spoke on the city of Saskatoon’s ongoing commitment to programs like EGADZ and other organizations looking to alleviate homelessness in the city. Although there is a support system in place, the situation is difficult to assess.
“We do know some things, but we have an incomplete picture of homelessness in Saskatoon,” Loewen said.
According to a recent Community University Institute for Social Research report, Saskatoon youth — specifically, children up to the age of nine and young adults from 17 to 23 years old — use transitional shelters and emergency shelters most frequently. The report also revealed that 70 per cent of people in shelters are employed and 74 per cent of those employed are working full time.
However, the CUISR report has difficulty assessing the issue of high risk youth in Saskatoon communities.
“This data doesn’t capture what we sometimes refer to as the invisible homeless,” said Loewen. “People who are couch-surfing, people who are at risk of homelessness ”“”“ maybe staying in a family situation that is less than ideal, maybe abusive or dangerous, because they have no other alternative.”
ESB students chose EGADZ because it strives to directly address the issue of at-risk youth.
“It is a common misconception students have”¦ that this campaign is just about the homeless,” said Radke.
Radke went on to emphasize the ESB students’ desire to make a difference at the grass roots level of youth homelessness in a blog post made on the final day of the event.
“Our society has many systems in place — family support, government programs, post-secondary education, etc. — to help us grow into our own prosperous world. The tragedy is that some simply never get the chance to start the climb. This campaign is about helping those less fortunate with their first steps,” he wrote in a blog post.
Another member of the 5 Days team, Leah Hoffarth, wrote in her blog of the respect she gained for those who deal with homelessness on a regular basis while participating in this year’s campaign. Hoffarth’s last blog post empathized with a former EGADZ member who she met during this week’s events.
“Today I met a past EGADZ teen who told me her struggle with home abuse and neglect which only makes every single bit of 5 Days seem like its not even enough,” she wrote.
“It’s amazing people like her who need to get recognized and celebrated as success stories for this campaign.”
By Friday night’s wrap up event at Tequila’s Nightclub, ESB students had already passed last year’s $12,000 goal and were on their way to achieving this year’s goal of $15,000.
The five students who spent their nights outside have since returned to the comfort of their homes, but the 5 Days campaign is set to continue until the end of the month.
For those who wish to contribute to the campaign, EGADZ website accepts donations year round.
Students who wish to contribute can donate online at 5days.ca/saskatoon until April 1.
image: Pete Yee/The Sheaf