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Student tackling stigma with 'humanizing homelessness' workshop

Grade 12 student said working at Collingwood Library has opened his eyes, his workshop takes place Jan. 20
Henry Currie, Collingwood Collegiate Institute student and collection maintenance assistant at the Collingwood Public Library, will be hosting a Humanizing Homelessness workshop on Jan. 20.

Working at the Collingwood Public Library has been an “eye-opener” for a Grade 12 Collingwood Collegiate Institute student, and now he’s hoping to share some of his learning regarding the homelessness situation in town.

Humanizing Homelessness is a workshop taking place at the library on Jan. 20. Led by CCI student Henry Currie, the workshop will dismantle stereotypes about those experiencing homelessness to encourage understanding and empathy.

“A lot of people my own age are well aware of it and have very strong opinions on it, but there’s a lot of misinformation and a lack of resources,” said Currie. “I wanted to help combat that.”

Currie came up with the idea for the workshop as part of a school assignment, where students were asked to come up with a “passion project” that revolved around community involvement.

“I had been doing a lot of my own research about homelessness within the community and had been working toward hosting something like this anyway,” said Currie. “I thought it was a good opportunity to do both.”

Currie has worked at the library as collection maintenance assistant for about a year and a half, and says he has seen an increase in people experiencing homelessness accessing services there such as using it as a warming centre or accessing the community pantry, even within the last six months.

“It’s grown immensely,” he said.

Some myths Currie says he plans to address in his workshop include reasons why people may become homeless, and general misconceptions about people experiencing homelessness.

“Some people believe homelessness is a choice. It is not,” said Currie. “It’s never something they choose.”

“I want people to understand what it’s like to be homeless, and empathize with their experience, because then they’ll be more likely to support people who are without a home. It’s so incredibly important, especially now that we’re in the winter.”

“My workshop can act as an eye-opener,” he said.

Currie says he believes its important for members of the community to have a better understanding of the issue through difficult conversations. He believes people need to become more comfortable talking about their fears, concerns and being given a space to ask questions.

“I want it to be a common discussion. I want people to feel comfortable talking about this, because it is such a big issue in this community,” said Currie.

“(People) think of it as a systemic issue we can’t solve, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together to reduce the impact,” he said. “I think it’s important we realize that and don’t try to push responsibility onto others. Everyone has a role to play in helping to reduce homelessness.”

The Humanizing Homelessness workshop is taking place on Friday, Jan. 20 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the FreeSchools room at the Collingwood Public Library on the first floor. The workshop is free, however financial or in-kind donations are appreciated and will be given to The Busby Centre – South Georgian Bay’s emergency shelter program.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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