Local resident Wil Don-Venus will be camping overnight in downtown Peterborough Saturday night to raise awareness about the harsh realities of homelessness and funds to support local initiatives trying to help.
“This idea was developed over time, after I met my friend who’s homeless, just over a year ago,” said Don-Venus. “She came into my mom’s store with her dog, and she was actually in tears, because her fingers were so incredibly cold. It was such a severely cold night.”
Don-Venus noted that this same friend, “Jessica,” is currently camping outside her home after being evicted from where she was staying for the last four months.
“She was in a crisis yesterday, and I couldn’t let her not have anywhere to go on,” she said. “So, she’s here on my side yard right now. So, she doesn’t know where she’s going tonight, and I don’t know where I’m going on Saturday.”
A big part of Don-Venus’s “tent up” is about experiencing what it’s like to be homeless during the winter, to have a better understanding and compassion for what people in this position are going through, she explained.
“This is designed to create some awareness, even for myself, because I’m so privileged, and I’ve always lived in a home and never had experienced homelessness,” she said. “So, maybe it’s a good experience, for myself and other community members interested in supporting the cause, to realize in a very small way, what it feels like to go through a Canadian winter without shelter.”
With this “tent up,” Don-Venus is hoping to raise $2,500 for United Way Peterborough and District by Tuesday. United Way has setup a giving page on their website to help with this goal, so that donors can receive a tax receipt for their donation.
“There is a network of agencies who work to provide outreach, cold weather survival gear, counselling and so many integral supports to our neighbours experiencing homelessness and I want to help by raising funds to be invested in these services,” she stated in a media release.
Don-Venus thanked everyone who’s helped so far.
“On behalf of my homeless friend and her dog, and all those who aren’t sheltered, thank you for caring,” she stated. .
Homelessness advocate Dan Hennessey also called out Peterborough council members and asked them to camp out Saturday night at the Overflow Shelter.
“Many are forced to camp every night and sadly some die,” said Hennessey.
Currently, no councillors have taken him up on the offer.