On February 10, UTM organizations A Better Day Tomorrow (ABDT) and Acts of Kindness partnered to raise awareness about homelessness within the GTA. Members prepared care packages containing hygiene necessities and handwritten Valentine’s Day messages for people staying at the Red Door Family Shelter in Downtown Toronto.
ABDT President Alexis Konopny, Vice President Amanda Jani, and executive member Emma Fath hosted the event. “We wanted to raise awareness about homelessness because it’s a big problem, especially in the Mississauga area,” Konopny said in an interview with The Varsity.
Attendees packed menstrual pads, soap bars, toothbrushes, tissues, and wet wipes into Valentine’s gift bags, adding handwritten motivational notes. According to Fath, these items are necessities and help improve people’s mental health. “It’s a confidence thing,” said Fath. “Feeling clean [is] associated with dignity.”
Sonja Pusic, a first-year student at UTM, used to work at a homeless shelter and attended the event. Pusic discussed the impact of the handwritten Valentine’s Day notes, and said that a “personal touch would really help people.”
ABDT is in the process of becoming a University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union recognized club. As such, they do not currently receive funding from banks they have approached or U of T student unions, so the ABDT executives purchased the necessities used in these care packages with their own money. As the only club generally aimed at advocating against Toronto homelessness on all U of T campuses, ABDT hopes to establish chapters at UTSC and UTSG.
“[We’re] just helping as much as we can,” Konopny said. “We’re not going to end homelessness, but a step in the right direction is what our group is looking for.”
Konopny hopes to host a joint event with an addiction centre to educate students about the comorbidities of addiction and homelessness, and to host a naloxone training session to help individuals properly react during overdose situations. According to the City of Toronto, 13 overdose deaths occurred at Toronto shelters during July, August, and September of 2022. Prior to that, from October to December 2021, homeless shelters recorded 27 overdose deaths, which is the highest number of deaths to have occurred in one quarter.
The group also aims to invite University Health Network representatives to speak about the relationship between unhoused people and hospitals.
The ABDT executives also plan to organize more care package-making events. “It’s a good initiative to get people together, to collaborate, [and to promote] teamwork amongst the club,” said Konopny.