QPID sleeps rough for homelessness awareness

Club to camp out on Union Street for local youth shelter

Five Days for Homelessness will take place from March 3 to 8.
Supplied by QPID

Queen’s Project’s on International Development (QPID) will be hosting their annual Five Days for Homeless on March 3 to 8.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of homelessness in Canada and raise funds for the Kingston Youth Shelter. 

Thirty universities across Canada participate in the event, which raised a total of $2 million in the past years, program coordinator Matthew Plut told The Journal

A group of up to 50 Queen’s students will camp out in front of Union Street wearing orange t-shirts, and while they camp, will aim to raise awareness of the cause.

Five Days for Homeless will accept cash donations, with funds going to the Kingston Youth Shelter. Aside from providing temporary shelters for teens, the shelter also provides mediation services for vulnerable families. 

Similarly, the funds will also go toward installing an industrial kitchen in the shelter. Teens who stay at the shelter can take advantage of the installation and develop cooking skills that can later help them transition into adulthood. 

However, the organization has received concerns over its perceived emulation of homelessness.

“There aren’t a lot of issues this year, but some of the issues that were dealt with  is taking a soft and easy way in copying homeless[ness] and benefitting from it,” Plut said. 

“This cause is more closely related to mental illness and family breakdowns. We understand that what we’re doing is more about spreading awareness and getting the campus to talk more about youth homelessness.” 

He added the causes and sources of homelessness are far more complicated to show than just sleeping outside. The event seeks to inspire conversation.

“I think [when] a lot of people think of donating [to] causes like homelessness, they think the issue is fairly hopeless,” Plut said, adding the organization has worked closely with the Kingston Youth Shelter throughout the year to gain a deeper understanding of the issue locally. 

“We got to talk to the program coordinator, and she tells us all these amazing stories of how kids who pass the program end up doing really well in life,” Plut said. “[T]he kids who end up in the program aren’t any different from kids who goes to Queen’s, they just had a few [difficulties] and some bad luck, so they end up in a tough situation.”

Plut explained that with the support and structure of the shelter,  teens can settle into apartments and find work. In some cases, they donate back to the shelter.

“This donation provides the structure and a form of investment in the future of these kids. It’s not money that’s being burnt or spent on a one-time thing. It provides a broad structure for these kids to move out of the shelter,” Plut said. 

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