Homelessness Awareness in Espanola

Homelessness Awareness in Espanola
Author of the article: Jacqueline Rivet
Publishing date: Oct 20, 2022  

Photo supplied with permission École Catholique La Renaissance students set up in the Giant Tiger parking lot in support of homelessness. Grant Lewis presented to them about the role of the Helping Hands Food Bank.

On the cold wet night of Oct. 11 students from École Catholique La Renaissance set up cardboard boxes in the parking lot at Giant Tiger to raise awareness about being homeless.

Fifteen students from grades nine to 12, including one former student, and three teachers, Stephen Montgomery, Joanna Castonguay and Josée Lapointe, were involved in the project. They set up the program to include self generated fundraising where if the student raised, for example, $20, they could have a pillow for the night or a sleeping bag. The students did very well in their fundraising efforts, bringing in more than $1,000 and multiple bins of food for the Helping Hands Food Bank. The evening activities included exercises that explored the differences between society’s haves and the have nots and how a situation that is not your fault, still affects your life.

There were quite a few people that stopped to talk to the students, donate or came to see what was going on. Over the evening Grant Lewis from the Helping Hands Food Bank of Espanola visited the students. He shared with the students that it takes $90,000 a year to supply enough food for the patrons from the Espanola area. They also had two visitors, Dana Crane and Jenna Bourcier from the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board who explained what they do to help the homeless including information on low-income housing. The students further learned from Crane and Bourcier that there were different types of homelessness, from living on the street to couch surfing.

Another visitor dropped by, Kathy Carre, playing the role of a person challenging the students for supporting the homeless. On her first visit she told them she thought what they were doing was ridiculous and how would it help. The students respectfully and passionately explained their position and did not back down. On Carre’s second stop about 20 minutes later, she revealed that she was acting and how the students should never let anybody stop them from standing up for what they believe in.

Carre said, “I am so proud of you (the students), we forget how fortunate we are.”  Montgomery, Castonguay and Lapointe stayed farther away during Carre’s visit letting the students handle the situation. They felt the students did a great job.

Thanks go to all of the supporting people who helped the students learn more about homelessness. Montgomery expressed his gratitude to Giant Tiger for providing the parking lot, and the clean up before the event and to the Espanola Laundromat. The laundromat stayed open all night to allow the participants access to the washroom.

Photo supplied with permissionStudents Alex, Chloe (former student), Kiy and Sari made signs to help raise awareness.