Concordia students raise funds for Montreal homeless shelters
A group of executives from the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASA) and a group of JMSB students braved the March 14 snowstorm by sleeping outside hoping to raise awareness of the homeless people living in Montreal who face these winter conditions every year.
As part of the annual 5 Days for the Homeless campaign, participants slept on the corner of De Maisonneuve Boulevard and Mackay street in sleeping bags during the winter storm that dumped more than 35 cm of snow on the downtown region. The students relied solely on the generosity of the downtown community between March 12 and 17, using the money they raised on the streets for food.
“We feel that five days out of our lifetime is not very much,” said Émilie Leduc, the executive vice-president of CASA, who slept outside all five nights for the cause. “We bring the bare necessities such as a backpack, an extra layer of clothes, a water bottle—no money and no phone,” Leduc added. “We live off of donations and from the generosity of the community.”
This winter marked Concordia’s 9th edition of 5 Days for the Homeless.
Since 2008, the Concordia group has helped raise more than $300,000 for local homeless charities.
This year, the team raised $11,1262.80 for the Dans la Rue and Chez Doris homeless centres, which cater to the Montreal downtown community, said LeDuc. Chez Doris is a day centre for women in need, which provides meals and basic services, LeDuc explained. “Chez Doris has a number of volunteers and services which help get these women back on their feet,” she said.
Dans la Rue, which was founded by Father Emmett Johns, or “Pops,” in 1988, caters to homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 25 in the greater Montreal area.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Evan Pitchie, the CASA JMSB president.
“We have the option of going home when things get tough, but not everyone has that same opportunity,” Pitchie added.
During the storm, between 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., Pitchie said the team helped individuals who were stuck in their cars. “It was good exercise to keep us warm, and helped us raise even more donations for the shelters.”
“A lot of people assume that sleeping outside in the cold is the hard part, but what is most difficult for many people living on the street is the lack of social and human interaction,” Leduc explained. “They are often at the mercy of strangers and rely on our generosity—they are often ignored or avoided by people crossing the street to distance themselves.”
The 5 Days for the Homeless campaign was first introduced by the University of Alberta’s School of Business in 2005, and has since been undertaken by other universities across Canada, Leduc said. She added that Josh Redler, a CASA executive, was the one who brought the campaign to Concordia nine years ago.
This year, the 5 Days for the Homeless opening ceremony was hosted at McGill University—the two schools take turns each year hosting the event’s opening ceremony. This year’s event was organized by Émilie LeDuc, Mackenzie Murray and Nour Hanna, all CASA JMSB executives, along with 13 other JMSB CASA executives.
“The issue of homelessness in youth is very important to us,” said Murray. “We want to address this problem and raise awareness and funds to help those who are facing this reality.”
The most popular programs at Dans la Rue are their education and employment services, said Michelle LeDonne, a development adviser at Dans la Rue. “We offer several different employment opportunities for youth in Montreal, such as an alternative high school on-site and funds for students attending CEGEP.”
“Dans la Rue has an RV van which goes out five days a week to provide individuals living on the street a warm spot, a meal and offer them assistance on mental health, healthcare or information about our day centres,” LeDonne explained.
The van visited the Concordia group during the storm on last Tuesday, offering the students food and shelter, Leduc said.
“We are touched to have this partnership with Concordia and their motivation for the cause,” LeDonne said.
For anyone who would like to donate clothing, food or money to the cause can visit their website.