Outdoor sleepover helps homeless

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By Rachelle Younglai

Kalopo Tsimisis remembers how hard it was to find a house for her family to live in.

Last year the 40-year-old, third-year social work student had to move three times before she could find permanent subsidized housing.

Tsimisis was among more than a dozen Ryerson students and staff who set up sleeping bags and tents outside Pitman Hall Friday night to raise awareness — and money — for Operation Go Home, a national program designed to help homeless youth find housing.

Odelia Bay, RyeSAC’s v.p. education, thinks homelessness is a big concern for students.

“Twenty per cent of students don’t receive the housing they need,” she said, adding some students are on the verge of having nowhere to live and “couch surfing.”

Ryerson’s Women’s Centre had been planning the second annual event since September. The Community Food Room, Ryerson’s food services, Pitman Hall, RyePRIDE and the Daily Bread Food Bank co-sponsored the event, contributing food and supplies for the night.

“The voices are getting louder and louder every year,” said Women’s Centre coordinator Komal Bhandadri. “People recognize the cause and support the event.”

More than $1,000 was raised this year for Operation Go Home. Last year, the event raised $300 for Project Warmth, a Toronto-based organization working with the homeless.

“The most difficult thing to do is sleep on someone’s couch and go to school,” Tsimidis said.

The students who slept outside last Friday under the watch of security shared sleeping bags and stories rather than couches. They ate donuts and muffins donated by local businesses such as Tim Hortons, Treats and Le Marche. Movies were projected on an impromptu movie screen made with a white sheet.

“The reality for students is that [sleeping on the streets] is not like this,” says Donna Smith, a third-year early childhood education student and an outreach coordinator for Operation Go Home.

Smith says there is no such camaraderie among street kids and no security. She says some kids who live on the streets are abused.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be homeless,” says Lianne Bilan, a first-year social work student, “I’m here because I realize how privileged I am. I want to help raise awareness.”

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