Volunteers sleep in Concordia’s downtown campus to raise donations and awareness for the homeless
This week you may have noticed people camping outside of the Hall building collecting donations. The initiative, 5 Days for the Homeless has been raising awareness and funds for homeless people by having community members experience homelessness first-hand.
For Elias Lolei, a Concordia Masters of Information Systems Security graduate, this is the fourth year he will be participating in Concordia’s 5 Days for the Homeless.
Lolei said this started as a student initiative. “The concept is that we live as homeless people for five days and we try to raise as much money and as much awareness as we can,” he said. For Lolei, he notices how being homeless can make you feel as rejected from society. “You see how bad it is when your friends walk by and don’t even notice you,” Lolei said.
Josh Redler, a graduated marketing student from Concordia brought the initiative to Concordia in 2008, leading the national campaign. This initiative began for business students at the University of Alberta in 2005 to show that business students are socially aware and active.. Since 2008, he has been present for each 5 Days for the Homeless at Concordia.
Lolei said initially many people react to homeless people as people who should get a job. “Unfortunately it’s not that simple,” Lolei added. “Some of them have mental illness problems, some of them have many other problems—it’s not just getting a job.”
While some people may feel uneasy about handing donations to homeless people directly, 5 Days for the Homeless assures donors their money will be spent benefiting people living on the street.
Redler describes the significance of having the initiative take place in mid-March due to the weather being unpredictable. “We’ve had four seasons in one week before,” Redler said. “So you really get the experience of what it’s like all year round.” He said his first year participating as horrible. “We had a 20 cm blizzard the night before … we pretty much froze,” Redler said. “But the generosity and support of everyone was so heartwarming that it brought me and some other friends back the year after as alumni to organize the event again.”
Redler said the goal for donations this year at Concordia is $15,000. He said the largest donations 5 Days for the Homeless raised at Concordia was $42,000 in the first year. “That’s what was really what was amazing to me—seeing the community coming together for three kids sleeping outside,” Redler said. “Now we’ve grown to 15 to 20 people on a given night.”
To make donations visit the fundraisers 5 Days for the Homeless outside the Hall building at the corner of Maisonneuve Blvd W & Mackay St.