Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students slept among the shelves of the school library to raise awareness and learn about homelessness March 22.
The school’s Interact Club hosted its first-ever Sleepover for Homelessness event, with more than 30 students participating. Students slept on the ground in the library, without their home’s luxuries. They also discussed stories of homelessness and different myths about it.
Club staff advisor Christine Carr said it was a way to counter misconceptions about homelessness.
“A lot of students don’t realize it is a problem in this area,” Carr said.
The evening was done in solidarity with Places for People’s Sleeping in Cars event March 1, which had participants sleep out one night in their vehicle. Club president Josie Quigley said they were initially invited to participate in that. Due to liability and logistical issues, however, the club hosted their own event instead, which was more accessible to students.
“It’s more about opening up the conversation about something that we don’t really talk about, especially as youth,” Quigley said. “Everybody knows somebody that’s been kicked out, but we don’t really refer to it as homelessness and we don’t really realize what an epidemic it is.”
Participant Hailey Brisco said the event was a chance to better understand what homeless people go through.
“There are so many things you take for granted, like having a roof over your head, and so many people don’t have that,” Brisco said.
Quigley said she was shocked by the number of people who attended.
“It’s because it’s so relatable. We all know someone that’s been homeless, or that’s been in-between houses, couch surfing,” Quigley said.
Carr said the event helps students better know their community.
“It helps them be able to help others if they’re aware of it (homelessness),” Carr said. “There’s a lot of stigma around it. By trying to take away some of the stigmas, it can help people be more likely to reach out for help.”