From Sunday March 9 to Friday March 14, Concordia students took a courageous stand by sleeping on the sidewalk outside the Hall Building at the Sir George Williams campus. They lived outside, 24/7, for five days through cold, damp, and inclement weather as part of a nationwide campaign to raise funds and awareness for homeless — specifically to benefit Chez Dora and Dans La Rue in Montreal.
Sleeping through cold temperatures, almost withering indifference and even a snap blizzard tested their resolve at times.
Once established on campus, many students had questions for the participants about homelessness in Montreal, the campaign and the volunteers’ commitment to follow through on the entire week.
“The storm on Wednesday was pretty rough. With the drop in temperature, and the thick snow, you begin to wonder just how anyone would survive out here for long without shelter,” said one student taking part – a grim reminder that Montreal’s homeless are often caught outside without the option of heat or shelter in very hostile conditions that can lead to ill health and hypothermia.
“After two or three days of eating and sleeping poorly, your mind gets foggy on goodwill, coffee and doughnuts. Good judgment can become impaired. Long-term, this can cause more problems as consequences compound with poor diet, and health,” said Josh Redler, Concordia alumni and organizer for the Montreal event.
But despite the weather, the biggest problem the group encountered this week was indifference. The majority of passersby simply ignored the appeal, despite volunteers being dressed in fluorescent orange. Hard to ignore, politely persistent, and willing to discuss the problem of homelessness with anyone who would stop to ask about the campaign, there were many hours that passed by without a single individual stopping to inquire about the group and their activities.
“One of the biggest problems for the homeless is that people ignore your presence. After awhile, you begin to actually feel like you are invisible — even though you are hiding in plain sight,”explained Redler.
Thankfully, there were students, members of the public, and even faculty who did take a moment to stop, chat and inquire about the campaign. Those that did were 100 per cent supportive of the group’s efforts. Some supporters brought food, clothes and donations during the five day effort.
Redler was cautiously optimistic about this year’s event. Although overall donations were down this year there was a significant show of support from parties who did take interest.
“It’s a process, a progression. If we can improve, year over year, then we know we are making a difference. The organizations we support depend on fundraising efforts like this, in order to meet their objectives of helping people out of these circumstances.”
Ongoing donations will continue to benefit Chez Dora and Dans La Rue for the balance of the month of March. You can donate online, by visiting 5days.ca
Can’t spare a buck?
“Take a moment to acknowledge the homeless. You may be the only caring person they encounter all day. They may be encountering a temporary, or long-term setback, but whatever their circumstances, they deserve the same consideration and respect as neighbours and part of our community,” said Redler.