January 23, 1998


Students shore up against poverty -- and the cold

Folio Staff

Arts Student Heather Smith

It was a long, cold night.

Still, a dozen students bundled up and spent the night in a tent as a gesture of solidarity with homeless people. "There are a lot of people out there who don't have the amenities that the rest of us have," says engineering student Paul Adema, "and I think it's easy to lose touch with that. It's important to raise awareness that there are people out there who need help."

"It was an experience," says Heather Smith, "About midnight we all got fed up and crawled into our sleeping bags. It was a group effort. We made sure everyone had enough clothes, enough socks and sleeping bags and we took turns sleeping.the guy sleeping next to me complained the whole night, 'I'm so cold!'"

The students are members of the Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity-a non-profit housing association with chapters and affiliates in 50 countries. (The University of Alberta is the first major Canadian university to support Habitat for Humanity by establishing a campus chapter). Each year, Habitat for Humanity builds homes for selected needy families, who are expected to put in 400 hours of sweat equity. "It's a hand up, not a hand-out," says Lynn Labbe, president of the Campus Chapter Habitat for Humanity. The new home is appraised by the bank and mortgaged interest-free to the family at 90 per cent of the appraised value.

"When you don't have your basics elements taken care of, your food, clothing and shelter, it's a pretty miserable existence," said arts student Jody Vogelzang. She hopes other students will support Habitat for Humanities Collegiate Challenge urging all university and college students to raise enough funds to build 100 homes by the end of 1998.

In all, the chapter has raised more than $600. President Lynn Labbe said donations were the secondary reason for the campaign, however; awareness was first. "We wanted to make people talk about the need for decent housing both in Edmonton and around the country."

"There are 35,000 people on campus," Labbe says, "and if we each donated the price of a coffee once a year, there's a house. If we did that once a semester, we'd be well on our way to building two houses a year."

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