Dalhousie commerce students spend ‘5 Days’ on street to raise awareness for youth homelessness

Dalhousie University commerce students are hoping to raise $25,000 to combat youth homelessness. Jesse Thomas / Global News

A row of five bright orange sleeping bags was lined up outside the Dalhousie University Rowe School of Business building.

Five undergrad students, all members of the Dal Commerce Society, lay there sleeping on a tarp and makeshift cardboard platform as they got ready to begin another day of fundraising.

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“It’s not too cold, your body just gets used to it,” said Julia Penney, VP of external relations with the Dal Commerce Society.

Penney was the first to wake Tuesday morning. It was just after 6 a.m. and it was brisk -7 C outside and still felt like winter as the remaining students began to wrestle their way up and out of their sleeping bags.

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This is the second time these Dalhousie undergrads will spend sleeping outside for five days to raise awareness and funds to combat youth homelessness in the community.

It’s being called the “5 Days” campaign, a fundraising initiative the Dalhousie Commerce society has been hosting for the past six years, and in that short time have raised $65,000 for the local not-for-profit agency Phoenix who provides a range of supports for youth aged 11-24, that includes emergency shelter, education and employment support.

“We’re very privileged to be at Dalhousie, we have a lot of comforts of life that a lot of people don’t,” said Penney, who will be graduating this spring. “We aren’t trying to mimic or pretend that we are homeless, that is not the point of this at all. The point is to bring awareness to the issue and awareness to what Phoenix is doing and raise some money in support of that.”

READ MORE: University of Manitoba students go homeless for five days to raise awareness

The goal is ambitious and they’ve set their target higher this year than any previous, in the hopes of raising $25,000 to support youth homelessness.

“We really believe in what they (Phoenix) do,” said Penney. “They help a lot of youth who are sometimes our age and they are right here in the community and literally right around the corner.”

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They are asking those who can to donate $12.60 to the campaign — that’s the cost it takes to help one youth in the Phoenix house per day — but are collecting any donations that can be made with their bucket in front of the Rowe building. They’re also asking people to donate to the online campaign.

Phoenix events and communications co-ordinator Kiersten Hackett said the 5 Day initiative is not only an example of youth helping one another but the campaign is also raising awareness about this issue of youth homelessness in the community, a unique challenge for the students taking part.

“It’s gaining perspective for themselves and definitely pushing these students out of their comfort zones,” said Hackett. “Having to go write a test after sleeping outside all night definitely changes your experience but the sad reality is, that is the experience for some young people in our community.”

Joining Penney outside were Dal Commerce Society president Donald Eastop, VP of events Abbey Henley, along with Nicole Vander Doelen and Christina Erb.

A handful of other commerce students and special guests will continue their outdoor camp until March 29 when a closing ceremony will be held outside the Rowe School of Business at 11:30 a.m.

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