No electronics, no roof, no warmth.
Community and justice services students took a break from their typical Friday night plans and battled temperatures as low as three degrees for 24 hours in downtown Ottawa.
The battle took place in a small, sectioned-off area in Minto Park. It was not actually a battle, but the program’s annual 24 Hours of Homelessness fundraiser for Operation Come Home.
The students took turns panhandling on Elgin Street as the Ottawa nightlife passed by them. While one group of students was fundraising, another huddled together in their sleeping bags and blankets on top of some collapsed cardboard boxes.
“Everything we’re getting comes from the goodness of peoples’ hearts” said Caroline Piche, a second-year student in the community and justice services program. “Living enough of an experience like this, it’s really eye-opening.”
They weren’t allowed to bring any tents, food or money. Cat Baron, the professor that led the demonstration, explained that the students were only allowed access to the basic necessities to make it through the night.
Donations of food were accepted too. At one point, a homeless man struck up a conversation with Baron and some of the students.
Baron had one of her students grab the man some pizza before he went on his way.
According to Baron, the purpose of the fundraiser isn’t solely to raise money. It also gives the students some perspective on the different types of conditions that some Canadians are forced to live in.
The fundraiser broke the proceeds down into three allocations: half of the proceeds were an earmarked donation to a local not-for-profit organization, Operation Come Home.
The remaining funds were divvied into two more categories: The program’s emergency student bursary and the class fund. 40 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
“You don’t even know, some homeless people have university degrees,” said second-year student Claudia Larocque. “It’s not just that they made a bad decision to do drugs.”