A group of year 10 Aitken College students recently took part in an overnight sleep out for a research project on homelessness in Australia.
Aitken College teacher Ben Lawless, who also took part in the sleep-out, said students were positioned to think critically about the issues surrounding homelessness.
Students heard from Steve Haylock, a guest speaker from Melbourne City Mission, and also watched The Pursuit of Happyness – a film about homelessness.
“Students have to study an aspect of well-being as part of the curriculum,” Mr Lawless said.
“They are also required to do field work. We thought it would be a great idea to combine the two and have some learning occurring outside the classroom walls.
“Steve Haylock provided some amazing information and stories – I think the students were quite surprised about how many people their age are struggling with homelessness.”
Year 10 Aitken College student Julia Kerry said one of the most eye-opening aspects of the sleep-out was hearing about the demographics of homeless people in Australia.
“I learnt that homelessness is far more prevalent amongst my age group than I originally thought,” she said.
Students were challenged to examine preconceived ideas around homelessness and the way it affects often already marginalised individuals.
“It has made me think differently about homelessness and what people have to go through day-to-day,” Julia said.
“I think we often judge the homeless even though we are taught not to judge a book by its cover.
“To be homeless must feel very frightening. It’s very difficult to get out of the poverty trap.
“That is why services to help the homeless are so important. We are so willing to dig deep to help people in poverty overseas but it is just as bad in our own city – especially somewhere like Melbourne where it is easier for people to fall between the cracks.”