For the 15 Swift Current Comprehensive High School students taking part in “5 Days for Change,” learning about homelessness first hand has been a bit of a culture shock.
It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, and not just because sleep has been hard to come by.
“You don’t think it would be that hard until you’re actually outside sleeping,” said Paige Krause, a grade 9 student taking part in the fundraiser. “Then you realize how different and scary it can be afterwards.”
“I think the thing that hits me the most is not being able to eat or drink as much as I want,” added another student, Dylan Griffin. “I guess I could say I’ve been spoiled, but, it’s good because I honestly had no idea that it was like this. Now I’m looking at things from a whole new perspective.
As part of 5 Days, the students were at the Fresh Start Program’s Our Daily Bread soup kitchen for their first, and only, hot meal of the fundraiser. The students had a chance to talk with some of Swift Current’s poorest citizens and get an even better idea of how they live.
“I always thought I had a tough life,” said another grade 9 student, Cassy Muri. “But then seeing this and seeing people like this, I don’t actually have that tough of a life.”
Of course, all this experience won’t matter if it doesn’t change anything, and going through this first hand has got a lot of the participants thinking.
“This honestly made me want to do more,” Griffin said. “I’m going to graduate this year, so I want to raise the issue more in bigger cities, see if we can put a stop to it.”
The five-day campaign has the students sleeping outside while forgoing familiar comforts like hot showers and cell phones. The students are trying to raise money for a new youth homeless shelter that will hopefully be completed this fall. They raised more than $6,000 on the first day alone, and garnered a few questions along the way.
“Why are you doing this?” Krause said with a chuckle, when asked about the response.
“There’s a lot of that, but then there’s a lot of ‘good job’ and ‘this is such a good thing,’” Muri added. “There’s a lot of very positive response towards this.”
Typically Our Daily Bread feeds about 30-45 people every Wednesday night. They’re one of two organizations in the city that provide an evening meal to Swift Current’s poor.
Most of the people here are not homeless, but none have a permanent place of residence either.
“When (people) picture homelessness they see them out on the street, but we learned it’s like couch surfing,” explained Griffin. “They don’t have a safe place to call home.”
This is the second year students have organized a “5 Days for Change” fundraiser. Last year’s campaign raised $16,000.