Saturday , 19 June 2021

Portage students to raise awareness for homelessness by camping outside for the night

Second-year social work student at Portage College, Nicole Evans, takes a community development class with her twelve classmates.

They are working on projects to raise awareness and build community outreach in the area.

With this mind, Evans decided to shed light on a growing concern in Lac La Biche – homelessness.

“Obviously being college students and finances are tight, we’re walking around a lot of places, especially in Lac La Biche since it’s so small, and we’ve noticed from walking to the grocery store, or to the post office, or walking wherever we need to go in town that there are so many homeless people,” said Evans.

“Lots of them are visible but there’s a lot that aren’t too.”

Evans and fellow classmates Megan and Vincent will camp overnight outside the Portage College on Thursday at 7pm before returning to class on Friday morning.

The awareness and fundraising campaign is called Freezing’ for a Reason and they hope to reach $4000.

“We partnered up for this event with the Lakeland Out of the Elements shelter. It serves the homeless but it’s not geared towards the homeless.

“It’s just what they’ve had to do to adapt and fit the community’s needs. We’re trying to raise awareness and funds for them to help get more beds or more mats or blankets.”

The homeless have few places to turn, especially when temperatures dip as they did in February.

“Any time of the day walk down main street and you can’t even count on both hands how many homeless people you see sleeping on the sidewalks, loitering around businesses trying to find a place to get out of the winter.

“There are lots of businesses who’ve been leaving their doors open into their lobbies for the night so people can have a place to sleep, things like that,” said Evans.

Lac La Biche FCSS has hired a homeless coordinator specifically to combat what appears to be a growing problem in the community, said Evans.

In the past two years, Lac La Biche County have tried addressing the problem by developing a task force focused on reducing homelessness.

“The main point is to raise awareness. Start a conversation. That’s why we wanted to do a campout. We want to do something visible that is hard for the public eye to turn away from. It’s very easy to not see homeless people on the street when you’re walking or to ignore them, but it’s a lot harder when you have college students sitting outside in the cold, saying this is an issue and we want you to look at it and talk about it.

If you’re interested in supporting the cause you can e-transfer the initiative at [email protected] or contact Nicole Evans at [email protected]

“This is really an event that the more people that come, the better event it will be.

“It’s one part of the population, but it affects all of Lac La Biche in a lot of ways that people don’t necessarily know.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.