The 5 Days for the Homeless campaign — a national campaign to fundraise and spread awareness regarding homelessness — returned to the University of Manitoba campus last week following the shift back to in-person operations after two years of remote learning.
Although previous years have seen student volunteers spend five nights sleeping in an outdoor shelter on campus to help raise awareness of homelessness, Melani Fernando, the director of public relations for the U of M’s 5 Days initiative, said that this year they “wanted to take a little bit of a different direction” with the campaign.
She said the campaign would instead include a speaker panel featuring people who work with various non-profits in Winnipeg that “tackle the issue of youth homelessness to speak about what their organizations do, and what we as students can do to help and to help support those who are experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg,” she explained.
“I think one of the really great things about the 5 Days campaign is that every year there’s new co-chairs, there’s new perspectives on where the campaign wants to go and this year the co-chairs thought that the best way, really, to help raise awareness was to take more of an approach of talking to people.”
Fernando said that the week would feature speakers who work with youth experiencing homelessness and representatives of organizations that offer support.
The 2022 campaign also did not feature students sleeping outside due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fundraiser’s goal is to raise $10,000, and they have received $3,000 as of publication.
Proceeds from the initiative will be donated to Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY). RaY is a Winnipeg-based charity that provides resources to youth experiencing homelessness.
The first 5 Days for the Homeless campaign took place at the University of Alberta in 2005, and has since spread across Canadian universities.
Some of the events for the week included a leadership panel in Drake Centre last Thursday featuring RaY director of grants and information Breda Vosters among others, as well as a concert featuring five local bands at the St. Norbert Hotel last Saturday.
Fernando said that “a lot of different factors” have come together to exacerbate the homelessness crisis, such as COVID-19, unemployment and inflation.
“Where RaY comes in with these housing supports, the money that they use goes to a number of different programs,” she explained.
Fernando said that RaY works to help youth experiencing homelessness find affordable housing “on the private market as fast as possible.”
“They recognize that one of the best ways to help youth or anyone experiencing homelessness is finding them a place to stay,” she said.
Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to access housing services independently from RaY. The organization also offers the ROOM transitional housing program for youth aged 17 who have a Child and Family Services (CFS) case worker. The CFS worker may apply for the program on RaY’s website.
“This is a transitional housing program that aims to help them find permanent residency,” Fernando said. “They have a bunch of other programs beyond just housing.”
“They have things that help youth find employment, so when they do find housing, they’re able to support themselves in the long term.”
To donate to the 5 Days for the Homeless Campaign at U of M, please visit https://www.5daysum.ca/.