The student committee at University College of the North’s (UCN) Ininiwi Kiskinwamakewin Centre (IKC) in Thompson is honouring a former member and helping out homeless people with a winter clothing drive.
Hart for the Homeless is a tribute to the memory of Jordon Hart, a former IKC student committee member from Pukatawagan who organized a clothing drive in the autumn of 2016 because he himself had been homeless. Hart died the day after the donation drive ended and his family gave the IKC its endorsement to continue the initiative using his name.
“He had a compassion for the homeless because he was a person who was also on the street at one time,” said IKC cultural co-ordinator Karl Laubmann. “It’s an important initiative to do. We’ll do it every year as long as need be and as long as we’re here.”
This year’s clothing drive began Nov. 8 and will run until Dec. 13. Unlike in previous years, the IKC is appealing to the wider community to help them help the homeless this time around.
“We never really though about going community-wide until this year,” Laubmann says.
Three of the IKC student committee members helping organize the clothing drive say they too have experienced homlessness . “Sometimes when you’re down and out you need a hand to help pick you up,” said Felicia Lobster, who is studying to get her Grade 12 diploma.
“I understand the struggle,” says Jaydeen Lachapelle, who is pursuing her bachelor of arts degree in Aboriginal and northern studies.
“When someone gives you a helping hand, it means a lot,” says bachelor of arts student Joel Highway, who intends to pursue a nursing degree and has also experienced periods of homelessness.
For Yvonne Meredith, a second-year early childhood education student who joined the IKC student committee this year, the Hart for the Homeless clothing drive has a personal connection, as she knew Hart because they came from the same community.
“It’s also a great memorial to him,” she said.
The IKC’s resident elder Marie Ballantyne said Hart, who made a large dreamcatcher that hangs in the window of the IKC’s ceremonial room, was always helping other people.
Student committee member Kincaid Thomas said that it’s his first time taking part in a charity drive like this.
“It’s really heart-touching” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of this.”
In addition to this clothing drive the IKC also organizes activities and events for students, including a food pantry, workshops on traditional teachings and crafts, and the annual Leslie W. Turner Memorial Pow-wow for graduating students. Its goal is to promote awareness of Indigenous culture and to incorporate culturally appropriate practices into all structures at UCN.
“This committee has been a big part of identity-building for me,” says Lachapelle.
To donate to the Hart for the Homeless clothing drive, which seeks items such as jackets, ski pants, sweaters, hoodies, socks and boots, as well as winter accessories like hats, scarves, neckwarmers, mittens and gloves, call Karl Laubmann at 204-677-6364 or drop by the IKC at room 143A of the Thompson UCN campus, where donation bins will be set up.