Students go homeless to raise awareness

By Julia Thomson, October 4, 2005
    Stephen Gagne, James Fitzsimons and Rami Reda from the DeGroote Commerce Society are going homeless this week, living outside of the McMaster University Student Centre to raise awareness about homelessness

Three students at McMaster are getting a different type of education this week as they learn what it is like to be homeless.

Stephen Gagne, James Fitzsimons and Rami Reda from the DeGroote Commerce Society (DCS) have pledged to go homeless, living outside of the McMaster University Student Centre from Oct. 3 to 7 in support of Good Shepherd Centres.

"We each have one sleeping bag, one pillow and one change of clothing. That's it," explained Reda, a third year student who also serves as vice-president, external for the DCS. The students will not purchase any food or beverages over the course of the week, relying instead on donations.

So far, the response has been positive. Gagne, a fourth year student, is president of the DCS. "One couple came by last night with sandwiches and bottles of water for all of us. They'd seen us on the news and just wanted to help out. They totally went above and beyond," he says.

The Commerce Society is also collecting clothing, canned goods, hygiene products and monetary donations for Good Shepherd Centres around Hamilton. Donations can be dropped off at the DeGroote School of Business, Room 133 or with the participants in front of the Student Centre. Commerce Society members are also going class-to-class asking for donations.

Gagne, Fitzsimons and Reda realize that living outside of the Student Centre is not equivalent to living on the streets of Hamilton, but their goal is to raise awareness as well as donations. They are handing out information flyers and pamphlets to educate people about homelessness.

In the meantime, they are learning themselves some of the challenges homeless people face. "The hardest part so far was last night [the first night outside]. It was so cold," says Gagne. And the cardboard the trio scavenged from a campus dumpster makes inadequate mattresses. "It's just generally uncomfortable," he adds.

And the students expect it to get harder says Fitzsimons, the second year representative on the DCS.

"Initially, people were a little skeptical, but we want them to see that we're taking it seriously," says Reda. "We'll be here for the whole week. We want people to come by and maybe just drop off a quarter every day."