The Ryerson Marketing Association (RMA) has partnered with City of Sleeping Bags, a Toronto-based charity, to help give homeless Torontonians a platform to share their stories.
“Nobody wants to grow up and become homeless,” said Robin Ha, an RMA events associate.
“We want to help get these stories out there to show that these are real human beings who’ve unfortunately fallen into a bad situation.”
City of Sleeping Bags was created in 2015 by two Ryerson students and a University of Toronto student.
The initiative distributes sleeping bags and care packages containing gloves, hats and other winter necessities to homeless people in Toronto.
RMA students will help distribute these winter necessities, while also bringing along a camera to allow the people they meet to tell their stories of life on the streets. The project, inspired by the popular website Humans of New York, will feature their stories and photos on social media.
Ha and her team have already been hard at work creating and delivering care packages and collecting stories. One moment in particular sticks out in her mind.
It was a bitterly cold day and Ha was freezing after just a 10-minute walk to Yonge-Dundas Square. She saw a 20-year-old woman sitting on the sidewalk nearby, approached her and offered her a care package.
The woman said that her mother’s new boyfriend had kicked the young woman out of her home when she was just 14. Since then, she’d been struggling to find a safe place to live, sometimes resorting to sleeping in stairwells to hide from the cold.
The woman thanked Ha for the care package, but more than that, thanked her for stopping to talk. Ha and her colleagues were the only ones who’d bothered to talk to her that week, she told them.
Ha said she hopes that when students see these stories it will draw their attention to the homeless communities that live near campus.
“Our school is in the heart of Toronto, so we see the homeless community so much as a student body. If you see these people, don’t shy away or ignore them and act like they’re not human,” Ha said.
Jane Mathias, co-founder of City of Sleeping Bags, is also a marketing associate with the RMA. Ha said Mathias proposed the idea for the team to take on as their first charity initiative.
“I think it’s important (for the RMA) to not just have a 100 per cent focus on career growth, but also to tie back to charity initiatives and form some kind of a plan to give back,” Ha said.