A nuit blanche for the right reasons

Photo by Natasha Taggart
Photo by Natasha Taggart

For the sixth consecutive year, Concordia University students are camping out on the corner of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Mackay St. for the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.

The campaign, which began on March 10 and will continue until March 15, is an event where students and volunteers sleep on the streets with no food or shelter to raise awareness for the homeless. All proceeds go to Dans la Rue, a Montreal-based organization serving youth living on the streets and youth at risk.

Other universities that take part in the campaign in Montreal are Université du Québec à Montréal, HEC Montreal, McGill University and Université de Montréal.

Over 25 universities are participating this year and the entire campaign has raised over $985,000 for various Canadian organizations dedicated to helping those in need.

Concordia’s first campaign started in 2008 when organizer and former John Molson School of Business graduate Josh Redler started 5 Days for the Homeless after hearing about it at the University of Alberta in 2005. In their first year, they camped outside Concordia with a few other people and, since then, the campaign has grown every year since.

“If you can’t help your community then how do you expect to help others around the world?” Redler said. “A lot of people try to have a blind eye when they’re walking past homeless people, thinking they’re worthless or not trying but we’re trying to change that perspective.”

The campaign’s goal this year is $30,000 and by the end of Monday, they raised $1,480. According to Redler, Concordia’s campaign has raised more than $30,000 in most previous years, except for last year.

“The student strike got in our way last year,” Redler explained. “We rely on the downtown campus to have people to come out to donate, but most people didn’t want to come out during strikes.”

Eric Wooboble, a student at Dawson College, will be doing the campaign for his third time and hopes to stay all five nights.

“I think this event reminds the students through experiential learning that there are people who need help in our communities too and not to forget about them,” Wooboble said.

While volunteers are not required to stay the five consecutive days, Redler explains that even one night outside can change the perspective of the homeless community.

“The first night is always the hardest,” Redler said. “You hear noises, you’re out of your element and even though we have security sponsored by Concordia, we know anything can still happen and that stays in our head the whole night.”

In 2011, the campaign had 45 people who volunteered to sleep outside. This year, Redler predicts 15 full-time sleepovers with 10 additional different people per night.

Rose Wangechi, alumni officer in charge of student programs at the advancement and alumni relations office, said she will also be donating. “This is one of the most outstanding events held on campus by our generous students,” she said. “I’ve seen the project grow into this worldwide event, from the first day [Redler] and his friend first told me about it. Simply remarkable.”

In 2009, Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau came out to support the cause and former Montreal Canadiens hockey player Georges Laraque will also be joining for one night this year. Laraque also volunteered during 2011 and 2012.

“This campaign can open people’s eyes,” Redler said. “And it can make homeless people seem less of a scary thing and that they’re just people too and that they need some help.”

Following the campaign, people are still welcomed to donate their money online at 5days.ca under the Concordia University section.


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