On Thursday, 7 March, Year 9 students began the Homeless Challenge.
They slept rough overnight and participated in activities that helped them understand what it’s like to live as a homeless person.
During the day, students walked to a local supermarket and purchased their food for the following 24 hours. They were on a tight budget of $5.00 per person; they shopped in ‘family groups’ of 3 to 5 people.
Next, they walked to the Salvation Army, where David and Thalia Grounds talked of the work the Salvos do in our community. Students were given some wise advice:
  1. Pay your taxes;
  2. Pay your rent;
  3. Say no to violence;
  4. Get involved in politics;
  5. Honour God with your lives.
Each family group built a hut in the afternoon, out of cardboard boxes, tarpaulins and benches from around the school.
Over the two days, students heard from Youth With A Mission and Andrew Wratten, a local minister, both of whom spoke on homelessness around the world. They talked of their experiences assisting local Christians in South Africa, Mexico, India and Los Angeles, offering support to long-term homeless people. All speakers reminded us about Jesus’ attitude to the poor and our Christian response to those in need.
Students also played a simulation game (Rickshaw by TEAR) to learn about the difficulties people face as they try to earn money transporting tourists around a busy city in a rickshaw. Some found it difficult agreeing on a price for a journey across town, while others were good at driving a hard bargain.
By night time the wind had picked up and the family groups had to do some quick repairs on their huts. Thankfully the wind died down, but the temperature dropped. After a cool night, students woke with their huts still intact.
On Friday, students watched the 2008 documentary Oasis, about a youth support network run by the Salvation Army in Sydney. The documentary introduced us to a number of homeless youth and the problems they face, from managing their money to addiction, and explored their social and emotional needs.
Students were challenged throughout the camp to consider the incremental steps that lead to homelessness, and they looked at the community organisations that assist people to reverse those steps. They developed a greater understanding of the causes and experience of homelessness, both locally and overseas.