Combating homelessness on campus

Matt McGuinness never thought he would have to worry about sleeping outdoors in winter weather.

But the fourth-year business student is currently in the middle of a week of outdoor living that he signed up for. McGuinness is one of the four students trying to emulate the life of a homeless person as part of the School of Business and Economics Students’ Society 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.

“[The first night] was minus 14, apparently,” McGuinness said. “I couldn’t get comfortable. It was a pretty crappy night.”

As part of the stipulations for volunteers, the students entered the campaign with only the clothes on their backs, a sleeping bag and a pillow. Volunteers may only acquire food through direct donation and are not permitted to leave campus. While these students must attend class, the use of Facebook and cell phones is prohibited.

According to the Region of Waterloo, an estimated 2,000 individuals are homeless in this area and three to five of every 1,000 of the region’s citizens are at risk of becoming homeless within the next year. According to the Canadian Children’s Rights Council, most individuals in Canadian homeless shelters are between the ages of 12 and 24.

McGuinness decided to get involved in the campaign after realizing just how privileged he was. “Through my four years here, I’ve come to realize that I am one of the luckiest kids around campus,” he explained. “I’ve had a lot of opportunity for personal growth and development, as well as support from other students, family and friends.”

One of his fellow volunteers, second-year student Jordan Bishop, was inspired by the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign before he even attended Laurier. “I saw the people sleeping outside two years ago when I was here on Laurier Day,” he said.“That was actually one of the primary reasons I went to Laurier.”

On Thursday, the team will host a St. Patrick’s Day BBQ for students, and on Friday closing ceremonies will take place. An estimated $6,500 had been raised as of Tuesday.

Bishop said that he hoped individuals would not simply toss change at the campaign but stop to learn about the cause. “You can give a dollar, but it doesn’t mean that you actually care about what’s going on,” he said. “We want to make sure people understand what this cause is that they’re supporting.”