Story by Kaleigh Rodgers

This past Thursday, social work students Ellen McLean, Lina Mateus and Anna Nikitina hosted a yoga class to raise funds for the London Homeless Memorial. This initiative was part of a project for SW 3318, Social Work in the Community, taught by faculty member Trevor Johnson. In addition to the yoga class, other students sold baked goods, hosted a bowling night, and organized a social media campaign, among other initiatives.

Students of the class were asked to come up with a variety of ways to fundraise for the memorial that is being commissioned by the London Homeless Coalition. The memorial, which will be stationed in Campbell Park, is scheduled for dedication in the spring of 2013.

The proposed site of the monument bears great significance as the park was host to the first Tent City protest in 2002. During the Tent City protest, young activists and members of the homeless community raised awareness for the need of homeless shelters in London.  As a result of the event, The Unity Project, offering emergency shelter and transitional housing, was established through an Ontario grant. 

Johnson explains that his class aims to give students an understanding of the different roles social workers can take on in relation to community development. The project itself asked students to examine London's response to homelessness, and then gave them an opportunity to help to fundraise for the memorial in effort to generate their own positive community response.

“I think [the project] builds on social work's foundation in social justice, and the School of Social Work's focus on practical skill building opportunities,” says Johnson. “Good social work in a community context builds bridges between groups through finding common ground, sometimes advocating for justice when needed, and creating opportunities to build relationships.”

McLean notes that the memorial is intended to be a touchstone for members of the London community to remember those that have died homeless. She adds that it will act as a solid visual reminder that will continue to remind the community of the need for an increased number of shelters.

“It is a reminder for all of us that many of our fellows who are on the streets still need help every day, it is a complicated social reality that needs our attention,” says McLean. “Out of sight, out of mind, doesn't help anything or anybody.”