Homeless for a Cause: 10 years of Teen Homeless Night

Homeless for a Cause: 10 years of Teen Homeless Night
Posted on 10/30/2017
Homeless picWritten by Ashley Fortin, Student Journalist

Have you ever seen a homeless person on the street, only to walk or drive past and think “what can I do, I’m only one person?” Would you help a homeless person in your community, if only just for a meal? Students at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School (DOM) in Bracebridge had the chance to empathize with the homeless in their community by participating in the 10th Annual Teen Homeless Night on October 19th, 2017.

Teen Homeless Night is a St. Dominic tradition. Every October, students sleep in cardboard boxes among their peers. This year alone, 35 students participated in Teen Homeless Night, while around 200 to 300 have participated over the course of the ten years.
Participants get the partial experience of being homeless beginning in a mock soup kitchen, where each student receives a cup of soup and a croissant. Students then create their shelter out of cardboard boxes and tarps. They participate in games, along with reflections - many students expressed thanks for all their blessings, including shelter.

sleeping bags  tarp shelter

The event began in 2007, when Lisa Theriault, a teacher at St. Dominic’s, and a small group of students wanted to raise awareness for the cause. Reflecting on the past 10 years, Ms.Theriault reminisces, “We came upon this idea and it has been going ever since. Including myself, there were 21 who spent the night outside the first year. This year we had over 35 participants.”

This eye-opening event is thoroughly appreciated by the students, with many coming back each year. Grade 11 student, Somer G. has participated in Teen Homeless Night since her first year of high school, and looks upon the experience highly, “When I was in Grade 9, I was asked if I would be interested in joining Teen Homeless. I said yes and it honestly showed me first hand what it's like, but not on the scale that they [the homeless] have to be out there for. I've done it every year and plan on doing it again one last time for my final year at St. Dominic.”

Teen Homeless Night has consistently been a fantastic experience for participants Ms. Theriault comments, “They [students] always say that it is a difficult but good experience overall. It is hard to be without the stuff you usually have, even for just a night.”

The money raised from this tradition goes to a Bracebridge program, Out of the Cold. In the past 10 years, approximately $10,000 has been raised for this program, with $1,000 of that being donated this year alone - with some funds still to come in. All money raised goes to help the program provide food for the struggling and homeless in the Bracebridge community.

Although only a yearly tradition for the students of St.Dominic’s, homelessness is a constant struggle for those not only in our community - but throughout the global community. Ms.Theriault hopes, “that students walk away with gratitude for what they have and a sense of duty for the less fortunate. We have so many blessings, it is important that we do the best we can to share those blessings with others.”

People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.
(Sheila McKechnie)