Katherine Heng (left) and Jane Mathias (right), third-year business students.

Photo: Brendan Hills

Rye students profile homeless people and personalize care packages

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By Alanna Rizza

A Ryerson student initiative is profiling the homeless of Toronto and is personalizing care packages for them.

“We get to tell their story in terms of this is what this person is going through, this is what they’ve had to go through, this is why they’re homeless,” said Jane Mathias, third-year business student.

Mathias, third-year business student Katherine Heng, a U of T student and Mathias’s sister Josephine Mathias, started City of Sleeping Bags in January 2015. Their initial goal was to raise $5,000 to purchase sleeping bags and items for care packages to distribute to the homeless. They expected to reach this goal in about a year, but it only took three months to raise the money.

City of Sleeping Bags partnered with the Ryerson Marketing Association (RMA) and launched a new initiative last week called Homelessness of Toronto.

“It’s for people to see that the donations are actually going towards something other than just chilling in a bank account,” Jane said.

“I feel like if people want to donate, they would want to know who they’re donating to. In addition, the people who are homeless downtown are familiar faces … so it’s [important] to know their story, who you’re walking by and what’s going on with them.”

The care packages include gloves, socks, a scarf, a hat, a clean white t-shirt, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, ponchos for the rain and pads for women. The homeless people are asked what specific items they need and then City of Sleeping Bags personalizes the care packages. So far approximately 30 sleeping bags and 50 care packages have been distributed. Tim Hortons cards are also given out.

City of Sleeping Bags currently has approximately 10 volunteers through RMA, but Mathias said anyone can volunteer. Whenever volunteers have free time, they put together the care packages, distribute them to the homeless people and profile them.

“I felt that that would give more of a personal [element] to it, instead of just giving your money without really knowing why,” Jane said.

Profiles are published on the City of Sleeping Bags website, along with their Facebook and Twitter.

“We thought that this would be a great opportunity to use social media to create awareness about the homeless community,” said Robin Ha, second-year business student and a volunteer for City of Sleeping Bags.

“It’s important to have awareness of the homeless community and that unfortunate situations happen and we shouldn’t just ignore them.”

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