WATCH: With Victoria in the midst of a homelessness crisis, a Central Middle School class is trying to understand the issue more deeply. April Lawrence reports.
Alan Barwin and his Grade 8 Media and Social Justice class are finalizing the gear they’ll need for a camp out on Tuesday.
“We have sleeping bags and cardboard and stuff to sleep on,” said student Taro Heinl.
They’ll be sleeping in front of the school to get a glimpse of what life is like for people who live on the streets and documenting their experience on social media, all part of a project called Homeless in Victoria.
“I hope they get a lot of empathy, understanding what it’s like not to have a roof over your head,” said teacher Alan Barwin.
Central Middle School is directly across the street from My Place, a transitional home run by Our Place Society.
In 2016, Barwin’s class started a relationship with the shelter, serving up spaghetti for its residents.
“It’s just something that’s right there in our lives so we just wanted every year the kids and I to understand the issue more deeply and get to know the people a bit better,” said Barwin.
Students this year have been to Our Place and chatted one-on-one with people experiencing homelessness, which they admit made them a little nervous at first.
“At first I didn’t think it was going to go very well and they just completely opened up and it was a really good talk,” said Heinl.
“When students aren’t limited to the cliches of how people end up on the street and they actually hear real-life stories of how people have had misfortune and what has led them there, that can really change your perspective on what homelessness really means,” said Our Place Society Director of Communications Grant McKenzie.
The Grade 8 students say what they’ve already learned is life changing.
“As you get older you sort of hold on to the lessons you learn as you’re younger, so it’s just really important to understand that so we can help people on the streets and help them find homes and just feel safer,” said student Camille Jacques.
Their wisdom, well beyond their years, is not lost on their teacher.
“I’m just really proud and I’m really impressed,” said Barwin.
The students, in many ways, have become teachers.
“Everyone’s a human and people want to be treated nicely and respectfully, they’re no different when they’re on the street, it’s just people,” said Heinl.