24 hours in the shoes of homeless people in Quebec, with 10 dollars in your pocket The atmosphere was pleasant upon their return on Wednesday night, but fatigue was evident as they unloaded their backpacks and sleeping bags from the buses. “I feel so bad!” »said a young woman as she left.
It must be said that the experience could not have been more immersive for these young people, who left early on Tuesday morning to go to Quebec and visit several community organizations that work with homeless people, before having to sleep all together, in the ground, in a Space provided by associated resources. They couldn’t access their cell phones and had to make do with just $10 for food and care.
“Some immediately feared they wouldn’t have enough for three or four meals, so they went to buy bread and peanut butter to be safe,” said one of the teachers accompanying them, Catherine Bergeron. They experienced discomfort, hunger. She reconnects with the reality of people on the street. »
“They couldn’t smoke or they had to buy their backpack with the 10 dollars, otherwise they wouldn’t have anything left to eat. Priorities change when we no longer have money,” added Julie Sauvageau, the second accompanying teacher.
This experience is inspired by the report Shipwrecked in the City and has been part of the specialized education techniques program for eight years. “This report inspired us because educators need to be aware of homelessness and mental health issues. It awakens their empathy and shows them the reality they will face in their work,” he adds.
If the immersion takes place in Quebec it is because homelessness is more present there and there are more community resources that students can discover. And because “living 36 hours in your own city, the shock is less great. We take them out of their comfort zone,” explains Catherine Bergeron.
Even tired, the students were unanimous: this experience was beautiful and very enriching, although each one lived it in their own way. They were able to feel the feeling of insecurity that homeless people, and more particularly women, can experience when darkness comes, experience wandering, waiting and coexistence, and then go out to meet the homeless people, share moments with them , discuss their daily lives, etc.
“We met homeless people, they were very welcoming and educated us about what they experienced with respect, without judging us. They knew who we were. We feel very blessed to be able to share their experiences with them, to see their kindness. They protect each other. »
— Ève Depatie and Émy Levesque, students of special education techniques
Some, like Laëtitia Châteauneuf, found it difficult to orient themselves and find bright places where they felt safe, while others, like Sararose Smith, had more difficulties having to live in groups.
“We were in a small group and I discovered that the most difficult thing was to put up with people, hold back and not create conflicts despite fatigue, hunger and a little jealousy towards others,” he explains, although he did not have access. , like other groups, to the soup kitchen.
The teachers explain that several students, tired of wandering aimlessly and without money, went to the resort where they were going to spend the night before the scheduled meeting time, set at 10:00 p.m., and insisted on returning.
“We let them wait to become even more attached to the challenge and reality. Survival mode was activated and many were irritable, but it also allows us to better understand the behavior of homeless people,” say Catherine Bergeron and Julie Sauvageau.
An irritability that can be explained by the lack of accommodation. If students knew their place was guaranteed, the same is rarely true for people who are truly homeless, and some organizations are often forced to decide who will be entitled to a room. According to the group, lack of accommodation is the biggest problem for homeless people.
“It is linked to the lack of resources and personnel, hence the importance of raising awareness among our students,” the teachers added.
One thing is for sure: this experience will be etched in the memories of these students for a long time. Everyone leaves wanting to help and will have acquired good habits with it. “We have to remove the prejudices we have towards homeless people, we have to stop looking the other way when we see one, because homelessness is present and will get worse. You have to greet them, a little smile. It will bring happiness to your eyes. And, above all, we must be grateful for what we have,” concludes Anne-Marie Renaud.