A night of cold

Over one hundred high-school students from schools around Kitchener-Waterloo took to the streets this past weekend to raise awareness for youth homelessness in the event named “Strip the Streets.”

In a rally that began last Friday, students and members of the community alike participated in a rally that included speeches from local members of parliament and a march to Waterloo’s Uptown Square, where high-school students camped out overnight.

“It was amazing,” said Forest Heights Collegiate Institute teacher Arden Court, one of two teachers who took a facilitating role for their students in creating the event. “The power of the rally moving [up King Street], hundreds of people chanting ‘one homeless is one too many’ was

Among the students present was Matin Najafi Haeri from Forest Heights Collegiate Institute, who said she and her fellow classmates were intent on raising awareness.

“We need to remind ourselves that we should be more grateful and help out,” she said.
Though many students opted not to camp out due to harsh conditions, one high school student Beth Mollaligne of Cameron Heights braved the cold and said sleeping in Uptown Square, even under tents, gave some indication of how many people are forced to live.

“I was really happy about how it turned out,” said Mollaligne of the rally she helped plan. “It was unbelievably cold [overnight]. We tried to plan for it but it’s nothing you can actually fathom.”
Students from secondary schools such as Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute and Forest Heights Collegiate Institute were inspired by the Free the Children organization founded by Craig Kielburger. The rally was a reflection of the organization’s “think globally, act locally” initiative.
Speaking on Saturday, Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran expressed her thanks to the students for helping her champion an issue she is tackling in her position as mayor.

Halloran drew parallels from the rally to her ongoing efforts to build and furnish a supportive housing unit on Erb Street. During her speech, she called on the youth present to raise funds for the project.

Halloran expressed that youth can often have a “negative spin” and through initiatives like Strip the Streets, the youth of Waterloo can instead be a positive force for change.

“I want to celebrate the positive aspects of our youth because as I said, youth get it,” said Halloran. “You feel passionate about things, and you step up and you do something about it, and this is a perfect example.”