Students sleep outside UBC bookstore for homelessness
Several students at the University of British Columbia are learning what it’s like to be homeless in Vancouver by remaining on campus until Friday (March 20) at 5 p.m. without shelter or any idea of when their next meal will come.
They are wet, frozen, and hungry. The students have sacrificed the comforts of home, and will be sleeping outside the UBC bookstore for the next four nights. While gaining insight into homelessness, they’ll be raising funds to help homeless and at-risk youth in Vancouver.
Participants, who are taking part in the national Five Days for the Homeless campaign, are going without shelter, showers, or bathrooms. They have no disposable income; any money will come from begging and collecting cans and bottles. They are not allowed any food or drink other than what is donated to them by passersby. And they are required to attend all classes as usual, hand in coursework, and blog about their experiences.
“Some students fasted to prepare for the five days,” said Andrea Barrios, chair of the Vancouver campaign, during a phone interview. “All they are allowed to have is their sleeping bag, pillow, and books—no electronics or other personal items.”
Last night, they stuck it out in the cold weather, and braved the wind and rain. This week’s forecast predicts more wet weather.
Saeb Radaideh is one of the nine students taking part.
“Physically and mentally preparing for it was hard,” said Radaideh, a participant who has opted out of sleeping outside after the first night. “It was snowing like hell outside and all the sudden I really felt that aspect of motivation jump in—I really didn’t want to do it anymore.”
After falling asleep in a corner wearing two pairs of pants, socks, sweaters, and a raincoat, bundled up inside his sleeping bag, Radaideh said he woke up early this morning covered in spiders.
“I feel bad opting out of doing it for personal reasons, but even in one day I learnt a lot,” Radaideh said. “Being homeless has a whole different degree to it, but this is the closest thing you can actually do to experience it.”
Radaideh plans to sleep outside once again on Thursday night, and until then stay on as a volunteer.
Five Days for the Homeless is being held at 16 universities and colleges to raise awareness of increasing homelessness. The annual event began three years ago at the University of Alberta, and last year was the first time the event took place at UBC, where students raised $15,000 for the Covenant House youth shelter.
This year’s goal for Vancouver is to raise $12,000. The national goal for the event is $100,000.
All of the local proceeds will go to the Broadway Youth Resource Centre.