Selin Hekimoglu / Staff reporter
Since 2016, homelessness rates in Vancouver have been drastically increasing, and with the consequences of the pandemic, the crisis has has worsened. Three Gleneagle students have taken on the challenge of spending a night outdoors to provide insight on one of the many difficulties that homeless people face. Kevin Gong and Yoonha Lee, both grade twelve students, and Masa Wong, a grade eleven student, are three of the participants.
As stated in the article, “Coquitlam students to experience homelessness for one night” written by Mario Bartel, a reporter for Tri-City News, the students intentions are to “raise awareness regarding homeless youth and to raise money to run programs that support them.”
These three students admit to being used to their privileged lives, where they are fortunate enough to be provided with large, comfortable homes. They each have their own rooms, and a Mercedes coupe is parked in front of one of their homes.
Now, being part of Gleneagle Secondary Schools annual sleep out, they will have to put themselves in the shoes of an average homeless person for one night. Rather than being in the comfort of their own beds, they are expected to sleep in garages, sheds, or back patios.
Gong and Wong will spend the night in their families’ garages. Lee will be set up in his garden shed. These students will conduct this experiment so they can “take a peek into their lives.”
In preparation for the sleepout, the students have been searching for overnight shelter in their neighborhood. They also have been watching videos made by Covenant House that provide stories of young homeless people. Wong states, “it has been an eye-opening process.” He also points out, “Nothing is routine for them. They are always on the hunt for food and shelter.”
Carmel Kiani, a grade ten student from Heritage Woods Secondary recognizes that homeless people have it rough. “While homeless people are constantly trying to find ways to adapt to a life on the streets, they also have to deal with the selfish people who look down on them. People don’t think of homeless people as people anymore. Nowadays they are perceived as crazy drug addicts, but this isn’t the case. If anything, these people are more brave and resilient than any of us.”
A night of rough sleep is well expected by these students. Gong anticipates the night will be long, and uncomfortable. Wong’s parents are concerned that he may get sick from the cold, and Lee is afraid of rats invading his sleeping area.
Beste Hekimoglu, an SFU graduate is well aware of the sleeping conditions homeless people face. “I imagine it’s tedious having to spend every night outdoors. It’s cold, wet, dirty, and unsafe. These people have to spend every night’s sleep being uncomfortable.” The students are doing this in hopes of helping their peers open their eyes to truly understand the difficult, but unfortunately very true reality that other young people face. “We need to remind ourselves that there are people out there who need help,” Gong says. The students will be sharing thoughts and reflections online and will be awaken at 6 am to a phone call.