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Student swaps sandwiches for stories

By Hayden McBennett, October 9 2014 —

University of Calgary third-year communications student Sam Sawchuk has teamed up with Calgarian Evan Beck to put faces to the stories behind homelessness.

Sandwich for a Story sees the pair give a sandwich to a homeless person in exchange for the story of how he or she came to live on the streets. The project is not-for-profit and is funded solely by the duo.

Beck said he was inspired after he spent Christmas with his grandfather in Victoria when he was 10 years old.

“My dad suggested my sister and I should give out sandwiches on Christmas Day to all the homeless people we saw in downtown Victoria. One thing that always stuck with me was how happy the homeless were to talk to us, even more so than they were happy that we had brought them sandwiches,” Beck said.

Beck and Sawchuk said the stories they’ve heard countered popular stereotypes about homeless people.

“I [remember] these people being nothing like what I expected they would be,” Beck said.

Sawchuk said one of the men he met “actually kind of enjoyed being homeless.”

“He didn’t like being on welfare and receiving these payments and being held down by that,” Sawchuk said.

One man told the story of how he used to earn over $200,000 a year. But after a disabling injury, he couldn’t get workers’ compensation and was forced onto the streets.

Sawchuk said he has learned a lot from the people he has spoken with.

“Everyone has a unique story. There are a lot of successful people these days that grew up in harsh environments and I don’t think that the circumstance of being homeless can really dictate where your life could be headed,” Sawchuk said.

Right now, Beck and Sawchuk are buying and preparing the sandwiches on their own. They’re looking for help with making them.

Students’ Union vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel said many U of C clubs advocate for homeless people.

“I think that awareness on issues like this can always be improved. I applaud the students’ effort and initiative,” Ardiel said.

Another program aiming to end the stigma around homelessness is called Five Days for the Homeless. Students live like homeless people on campus and collect money, which is donated to help homeless people.

Students interested in getting involved with Sandwich for a Story can check out their webpage with information on how to join. The website also showcases the stories through vlog entries.

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