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Surprise! 5D4H doesn’t play homeless; they raise awareness

My opinion on 5D4H has changed from hating to loving

Oh the happiness that ensues when you’re not actually homeless. / Brett Nielsen
Oh the happiness that ensues when you’re not actually homeless. / Brett Nielsen

When I first saw the Five Days for the Homeless (5D4H) crew sitting and sleeping outside this year all bundled up in snow pants and winter gear, I was pissed off because plenty of homeless people living in downtown Regina don’t even have the luxury of owning warm clothes to sleep in during the cold winter nights. Nor do they have the option of going inside somewhere to sleep if the temperature drops to -25 like the 5D4H crew does.

The fact that 5D4H did not accurately represent real homeless people in Regina made me very angry; I thought 5D4H was trying to play homeless. To my deep and utter shock, when I sat down with Daniella Zemlak, Ashley Bernstein, and Jade Koch – three University of Regina students who volunteered for 5D4H to sleep outside, only eat perishable food, give up showering, give up their technology, and still go to their classes – I found out that my views on 5D4H were completely wrong (oopsie) through a solid little Q and A session.

How is what you do an accurate representation of the homeless in Regina?

Daniella Zemlak: It’s not. The first thing we tell people is that we’re not here to try and be homeless. All we’re trying to do is create awareness and get the conversation going…What we’re trying to do is, first of all, check our egos, check our pride, and have a learning experience for ourselves, but also to create a conversation, and that awareness is huge.

Ashley Bernstein: People don’t agree with what we’re doing, and there are people out there, but at least they’re talking; at least they’re thinking about it. They’re putting the thought in their head. They don’t agree, but at least they’re thinking about it.

Jade Koch: And the one thing that [5D4H] goes to show is it’s a symbol that it’s going on way closer to home than people think. I mean, they have to walk past us every single day, so when they choose to look or not, they can’t deny that it’s still an issue. It’s still going on in Regina.

Would you guys be willing to move 5D4H downtown and sleep downtown instead of outside the U of R to make the experience more authentic?

DZ: I think having the experience to do it downtown would just make it that much more intense.

AB: I think I would.

JK: I think that interacting with the people that are downtown too, I mean, brings a whole new perspective as well, and I think you’d be able to talk to them, and they can lend their opinions to [about] what they do every night and how they get through it.

BOOM! Let me just check my ego. Oops! Look! It’s running away with its tail between its legs! My pride? Yeah, well, that little champ turned to humility real fast…all this after sitting down and chatting with the 5D4H crew instead of just letting my opinions and negative views of them snowball without even going to the source for info.

And, heck, even though these beauties don’t accurately represent the homeless in Regina, at least they realize that. And, the fact that they’d be willing to sleep downtown to make the experience more authentic just goes to show these people have guts and are passionate about raising awareness and funds for Carmichael Outreach.

As Zemlak states, last year, 5D4H “met their goal of $25,000. This year, our goal is $26,000.”

Well, let me just say that this year, 5D4H far exceeded that goal, bringing in over $31,000 for Carmichael Outreach, which offers meals, clothing, a needle exchange, a nurse on site, housing programs, recreational activities, a diaper giveaway, and a personal hygiene giveaway for the homeless of Regina all for free. That’s pretty spectacular.

Zemlak goes on to say that throughout their time sleeping outside and raising awareness for 5D4H, they’ve had “people who have actually lived homeless experiences coming to us and being like ‘we are so thankful you’re doing this, you do not understand how much awareness this brings and that students are talking about this because you guys are the people that are changing our community.’”

I have no words to rebuttal on that statement. These champs definitely changed my mind on how I view 5D4H, and my mind is hard to change. So, atta be, 5D4H. Atta be.

About Ella Mikkola