Inter-City Homeless Outreach
By Hayley Moody
On too many occasions have I walked past homeless individuals in the downtown core without more than a second glance – we are all guilty of this. Isn’t it just part of life? With so much going on in our own student lives, how can we care about the men, women and children who have to bounce from shelter to shelter, or take up a spot on the street corner every night? Its’ not our problem to deal with, right?
Wrong. Homelessness is a complex issue which affects all Canadians – ignoring the problem will not make it disappear. Thankfully, McMaster University has stepped up to the plate to aid in tackling this problem through Inter-City Homeless Outreach Initiative (ICHO).
The ICHO at McMaster is a student run organization which focuses on the elimination of homelessness through the concept of relationships. Audrey Naluz, long time member of the branch in Toronto, explains that when you are able to reach the individuals at a personal level, you are better able to address their specific needs. So, instead of just handing out sandwiches and water, ICHO volunteers also know their names, their stories, their aspirations… Relationships are established and avenues open for learning and opportunities, for both the volunteer and the homeless individual.
The ICHO Hamilton division, run through OPIRG’s working group status, recently began in September 2010. While their numbers are small, their hearts are big, with their campaigns already delivering big success. During the Christmas season, ICHO sold ‘candy-cane reindeers’ in the McMaster Student Center, raising money for new socks, underwear and thermal gear for those who are faced with sleeping on the streets. Recently, the ‘FRESH’ fundraiser was established, raising money for fresh produce through a series of bake sales.
There has been a continuing effort through the ‘BELOW ZERO’ effort, which collects new and used clothing for those who need it most, as well as financial donations to buy socks, underwear and toiletries. This campaign will run until March.
As ICHO continues to grow, it is hoped that volunteers will be able to enter the Hamilton downtown core and distribute much needed items, as well as develop relationships.
If you are interested in joining this amazing initiative, contact Icho.mcmaster.gmail.com
*** picture credit: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/2/3522213_099de50c94.jpg?v=0