Saskatoon celebrities say homelessness challenge humbling experience

CBC News Saskatoon, June 20, 2016 - A few people in Saskatoon got to experience a world they've never been forced to experience before — homelessness.

This weekend, ten local celebrities participated in the Sanctum Survivor Homeless Challenge. Sanctum Care Group president Dr. Morris Markentin and musician Jay Semko were two of the people who participated in the challenge. The weekend involved a variety of tasks from sleeping outside to doing laundry.

"We had a brief glimpse into this, and there are people dealing with this reality every day," Semko said.

Both men were given a variety of tasks to complete over the 36-hours. These proved more difficult than they originally thought.

Semko had to try to get an I.D., which turned out to be so difficult, he was never able to get one. He also discovered how difficult it was to get services without a health card. He was unable to see a doctor to be tested for HIV, and he was unable to fully access the Food Bank.

  • Markentin had to do his laundry. He was able to use the free laundry service at the Central Urban Métis Federation (CUMFI), but discovered the extra challenge of doing the laundry that was already on his back. CUMFI gave him a sheet to cover up while he did his laundry.
  • Markentin said one big challenge was simply travelling from one location to another. He had to pick up his prescription in the Mayfair area of Saskatoon. "Then I had to basically sprint back to get to the food bank before it closed at 4:30 on Friday," he said. He made it with two minutes to spare.
  • Different groups were given different locations to sleep. Some got to spend the night at the Salvation Army, but Markentin was told he had to spend the night outside. "We didn't sleep at all, I mean we slept about an hour total."


Both men said they hope they're able to raise awareness through their experiences.

"In my opinion, there's no reason why anybody in our country should be outside sleeping, should be homeless. It really opened my eyes that way," Semko said.

Markentin, a doctor, said it will change how he operates his practice.

"It taught me that being homeless is more than a full time job. As a physician, when I'm seeing patients, if I'm making them wait and take more time, I'm actually interfering with them trying to survive the rest of their day."

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