With nothing but cardboard for a shelter and a sleeping bag for warmth, students at a Maple Ridge high school will be spending the night outdoors to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be homeless.
The Sleep Out Movement is an event that takes place in cities across North America to raise money and awareness about homeless youth.
Locally, money will be going to the residential Crisis Program at Covenant House Vancouver, an organization that provides services to people – ages 16 to 24 – whether they have fled physical, emotional and sexual abuse, or have been forced from their homes, or aged out of foster care and are experiencing homelessness.
They are provided with a meal, shower, clean clothes, medical attention and a safe place to sleep.
This will be the third year that students at Maple Ridge Christian have participated in the event, Thursday, April 18.
The evening will start at 6:30 p.m. with three presentations: one by Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy; another by former Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin; and a third by a representative from Covenant House.
After that, students will participate in various activities like recycling relay races, food serving and making a survival kit for the homeless. Last year, students also built structures to sleep in from cardboard.
They will get ready for bed at 10 p.m. and at 10:45 p.m. they will go outside the school’s front entrance and find a spot to sleep.
Last year, 50 students took part in the event from Grade 8 to 12 and raised more than $2,500 for the charity.
This year, they are hoping to raise $5,000, and Annika Meekel, Grade 12, media coordinator, said they are expecting more people to take part.
“Right now, homelessness is a big issue in Maple Ridge,” Meekel added.
“We wanted to have a chance to experience what it is like, so when we do volunteer with homelessness and youth, we can have more empathy towards them. Really feel what the situation would be like in their shoes,” she said.
Organizer Ben Wu said the event is a life-changing experience, “for students to understand the truth of homelessness.”
The following day, students will walk to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministry at 223rd Street and Lougheed Highway to serve in the kitchen from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
So far they have raised $850 of their goal.
• To donate, go to covenanthousebc.org.