How it feels to be homeless

I always wanted to sleep under a starry sky. I thought it would be one of the most romantic and poetic things to do. Well, while this might be true for a warm summer night, it is not for one in mid-October.
As a member of St. Thomas University and University of New Brunswick Amnesty International, a human rights group on campus, I went with six other members downtown to Officer’s Square on Oct. 15. We were taking part in 12 Hours for the Homeless, a fundraising event for Chrysalis House.

Located on Fredericton’s Northside, Chrysalis House offers shelter and support for teen-age girls who can’t live at home or have no home. During 12 Hours for the Homeless, teams of ten people build cardboard shelters and stay over night in them. Seeing as this year was the fundraiser’s 20th anniversary, we wanted to get active and help.

First, we built our cardbox house, which later won the “most authentic” prize. Then we checked out the entertainment. Trevor Doyle from Capital FM hosted karaoke and dance music. I wondered if music and karaoke were appropriate for an event called “12 Hours for the Homeless.” Most homeless people probably don’t have karaoke and I can’t imagine that they dance to “The Macarena.” But, it was fun and I enjoyed it. I didn’t know that I was going to miss the music a couple hours later.

The last tunes of “YMCA” became silent at 11 p.m. and the entertainment was over. It grew cold and we huddled together in our cardboard house. Although we had a roof, our entrance area showed the night sky. We chatted and told spooky stories. I have to admit that I was a little afraid of the thought that pub-goers might come to our house to say hello.

After midnight, I tried to sleep. My face was exposed to the cold wind, which had become stronger. At least it wasn’t raining.
At 1:30 a.m., I woke up. My nose was cold and I had to think of the stories we told before. Now I know why so many homeless people have dogs. Not to get more money from people, but because sleeping in the open is scary.

At 2:30 a.m., I woke up again. My right shoulder hurt, I had a sleeping mat, but it wasn’t comfortable. How could people sleep on cardboxes and park benches for weeks or months? How could they stand the cold? Even though I wore double and triple layers and had my sleeping bag, I was freezing. I wished for my bed.

By 4:30 a.m., I couldn’t sleep anymore. My neck and shoulders hurt and I wanted to stretch, so I got up. The cold wind was still blowing.
When I looked at the moon and the halo around it, I thought it was pretty poetic.

But after this night, I was glad to know that I could go home. I was thankful to have a home.

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