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Five days of camping

This is fitting, as the students should be downtown and not at Riddell./ Brett Nielsen
This is fitting, as the students should be downtown and not at Riddell./ Brett Nielsen

If you want to raise awareness for homelessness, really take it seriously

Author: Alicia Miller

The Business Students Society’s ‘Five Days For the Homeless’ campaign is admirable for raising awareness for homelessness and donating proceeds to the Carmichael Outreach. It involves five students who donate five days of their lives to sleeping outside of the university in the same clothes, not showering, getting food only through donations, and only going inside for classes. Very admirable, and few people can say they would do the same.

However, I would like to point out a few things about this campaign that seem problematic, given the cause’s nature. First, these students are only spending five days outside, and even then they are doing it in mild weather and near the university. Most homeless people are homeless for a lot longer than five days, don’t tend to be hanging out in groups, and they generally hang out around downtown areas of their cities. Now, obviously, it is unrealistic to expect university students to give up much more than five days pretending to be homeless, but outside of the university campus, I did not see a single sign advertising this campaign anywhere else. Perhaps it would be a more effective campaign if these students slept downtown, in ratty clothes, and begged for spare change. Otherwise, this campaign kind of seems more like a camping trip, since most homeless people don’t have clean proper clothing and would be kicked off property such as a university campus if they were caught sleeping there.

Second, I have heard that some of these students had to take time off from work in order to participate. That is commendable because they are forgoing income for a cause they believe in. However, if the point is to raise awareness for homelessness, I would hope that this kind of comment would not make its way outside of that group of people. Why? Well, is it not a privilege to have a job and to be able to take time off from it and not worry about how losing wages can make you… homeless? A lot of people who aren’t homeless can’t afford to take days off from work because they live paycheque to paycheque; doing so would cause them to lose their residence.

Lastly, these are university students camping outside of the university, presumably with people they know. There is a high likelihood that these people aren’t going to starve because friends and family will likely bring them food (although I’m not sure if there is a rule prohibiting that), so there isn’t really much of the desperation behind donations as there would be by an actual homeless person. Not to mention some homeless people can and do go a lot longer than five days without any food at all. As well, this is the university. These five students are being treated with respect, a courtesy not extended to most on the street. We’re all sympathetic to the cause and I’m sure many of us have donated, but there really is little true and actual legitimate experience being had by these students in terms of what it feels like to truly be homeless.

I am not trying to discredit the cause or its participants, because it really is a great thing to raise awareness for, but the way in which it is gone about is shrouded by the privilege of the people who participate in it. Not to mention the fact that after five days, these students just get to go back to their normal lives – a very big privilege not shared by the homeless populace.

Obviously, it takes a lot to commit to a cause in such a way as these five students have, and they definitely do care about what they’re doing because they wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, and that’s great. More people should aspire to this, but I kind of equate it to the irony of having a hotdog-eating contest to raise money to end hunger. In the end, awareness is raised and money is collected for the cause, but some critical thought needs to be given to the way in which we arrive at that end goal so it doesn’t detract from the good that is being done.

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8 comments

  1. Very poor article on many levels.

  2. It isn’t about students becoming homeless though. Its about raising awareness and raising money for the problem of homelessness. This extremely biased article completely leaves out the fact that these admirable students raised over 31000 dollars as well as barrels and barrels of food for the homeless. I’d like to ask the author what she has done that can be as admirable and helpful to the community as these five students did.

  3. Points out “problems” without any solutions. What the hell are they supposed to do? Seriously, what is the purpose of this article? You’re argument is that non-homeless people shouldn’t help out? This is an awful article, and the author should be ashamed.

  4. So….They should starve and die to make their point, in your opinion? Ok…

  5. What is important to remember is every charity model has flaws. Sleeping outside, running road races, or other popular actions will not irradiate an issue. Yes, this campaign can be viewed as counterintuitive or inappropriate, but every charity can be seen this way. To take it out on the students who dedicated their time isn’t fair. Really wish the writer of this article would have attended the discussion panel held on the last day of the campaign before lashing out with no justification. This panel provided important academic views on homelessness, and the campaign itself. Proud of the students who raised so much money, but the purpose is to start a conversation, not cause conflict. This campaign is a step towards the irradiation of homelessness, not solve it on the spot. It blows my mind how this university functions. I feel people are more interested in provoking conflict or embarrassing their peers. Departments shaming other departments, trying to seem bigger and better than the rest. What we forget is we all have an amazing opportunity to better our education, which we take for granted.

  6. Poorly written and extremely biased. They raised money, and they’re donating it to a worthy cause. What have you done to criticize their method of doing so?

  7. 1) It would most definitely not be a “more effective campaign” (annual revenues upwards of $25,000 towards Carmichael outreach) if they were “camping” downtown, and if they were stationed downtown they would put themselves in an unneccesary level of danger. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to experience downtown Regina at 2AM like I do walking to my car on Thursday nights. Perhaps then you would re-evaluate your brilliant suggestion.

    2) Your job comment shows as much or more ignorance about simple economic reality than your comment in your Ten Thousand villages article as follows: “…It’s also a shame to see a store go in a capital of a province that’s supposed to have the fastest growing economy in Canada.” – Alicia Miller. If you understood anything about simple economics you would understand how completely incoherent this comment is, and is a true window into your incredible ignorance. Simply because an economy is doing well does not guarantee, or sometimes even encourage, the success of certain businesses. If your market does not have a demand for your product or service, then you will cease to do business. Simple.

    To elaborate on the job portion of the comment, people aren’t homeless in Regina because they can’t find jobs; with unemployment sitting at 3.4% (100% employment is almost impossible in a free and prosperous economy, 5% unemployment is considered ideal) anybody can find a job. If you knew anything about homelessness in Regina, you would understand that the vast majority of homeless people in Regina suffer from Mental Health issues and drug addictions, both of which separately or acting together can easily drag an individual into the streets.

    3) You clearly have no grasp on how to raise money for a charity; the best fundraisers involve activities or stunts either loosely related to or unrelated to the cause. It produces the best results again and again and shall continue to do so.

    4) Next time, take some time to work out the errors in your false presumptions and premises before publishing an article like this. It only serves to show very poor decision making process and lack of ability to reason logically and if I was an employer, I would never want somebody who wrote an article like this working for me.