Storm subdues campaign

Five Days for the Homeless campaign tested by severe snowstorm

Volunteers stand outside of Stauffer Library to raise awareness about homeless youth.
Volunteers stand outside of Stauffer Library to raise awareness about homeless youth.

Queen’s students participating in the national Five Days for the Homeless campaign faced snowy winter weather and unseasonably low temperatures this week.

As part of the campaign, students are trying to spread awareness and raise funds for the Kingston Youth Shelter. The campaign is based at the corner of University Avenue and Union Street.

Beginning last Sunday, between seven to 13 volunteers wearing orange shirts have been living outside, without any resources and surviving off of food donations. Gemma McEachern, ArtSci ’14, the general director of Queen’s Project on International Development (QPID), noted that unlike past years, this year’s volunteers have had to deal with inclement weather, such as Wednesday’s snowstorm.

Volunteers, bundled in sleeping bags, stayed outside during the day, despite strong winds and snowfall. With the temperature dropping to minus 30 degrees Celsius in the evening, however, McEachern said they ended up moving over to Wallace Hall in the JDUC.

”What we did was we left a sign out in the library window [that said], ‘We had support when we needed it, but what about those who don’t,’” she said.

“We could have dealt with the snow, but it was the temperature with that 50 km[/hr] wind,” she said.

While Queen’s Physical Plant Services provided the group with tarps, the resources were inadequate to cope with the severe weather. McEachern said the decision for the group to move inside was a difficult one, and that recognizing that others don’t have the same privilege is crucial.

Monetary donations for the youth shelter have similarly been generous; she added that several people, hearing about the initiative from the radio, drove to campus to help. One person delivered a hundred dollar bill. “We had a really large struggle in making the decision,” McEachern said.

“Campus security advised us not to stay outside; experienced winter campers advised us not to.” For a second consecutive year, student-run group QPID has organized the initiative, and they hope to raise $7,500.

5 Days for the Homeless, which was founded by University of Alberta students, was first implemented at Queen’s three years ago by a group of law students.

Amy Booth, ArtSci ’16, one of the campaign’s participants, said one of her main reasons for joining was to break down the myths of homelessness.

“One of the big [misconceptions] is that youth shelters perpetuate homelessness … but, actually what youth shelters do is they act as a bridge to help youth out of the cycle of homelessness,” Booth said.

“I think the fact that we’re youth advocating for youth homelessness is probably one of the big reasons this is different from other campaigns on campus,” she said, “and the fact that we’re sleeping outside for five days adds gravity to the situation.” McEachern added that the Kingston Youth Shelter addresses an issue that is prevalent in the greater Kingston community, and also at Queen’s and SLC.

“We wear these bright orange shirts … to campaign for that visibility and awareness that youth homelessness is an issue,” she said.

As a result of Kingston’s new 10-year municipal housing and homelessness plan, which has left the youth shelter short $10,000 to $15,000, shelters have been left to rely more heavily on fundraising campaigns and donations.

“Hopefully this might become an annual thing if the need is still there for the Kingston Youth Shelter,” McEachern said.

As part of QPID’s weekly forum, Jason Beaubiah, executive director of the Kingston Youth Shelter, spoke on myths of youth homelessness this past Monday. Visibility is often a key issue, as their clients are not often readily identifiable.

“With students taking such an in-your-face approach, it kind of behooves people to come down and see what is going on and pay attention to it,” Beaubiah said.


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