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Oct 11, 2018

Healthy Living: Mental Health Fundraiser

A unique fundraiser is taking place this weekend. In this instance about a hundred persons are camping out at the Memorial Park throughout the night to experience what it is to be homeless. The event is being organized by the Welcome Resource Center that caters to the City’s homeless persons as a way to bring awareness to mental health.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“On Saturday night here at the Memorial Park in Belize City, almost a hundred Belizeans are coming together to unfold to a brand new experience, that is: choosing to be homeless for a night.”

 

The event is called Sleep Out and it’s a fundraiser. But why would anyone want to pay to give up the comforts of their home and bed to sleep on cardboard boxes outdoors?

 

Joyce Ellis

Joyce Ellis, Administrator, Welcome Resource Center

“I want people to have this experience and you know what I don’t want us to feel sorry for them I want us to empathize with them feel the way these people do. We’re not pretending to be homeless but it’s just the idea to make you feel what these individuals go through.”

 

Joyce Ellis is the administrator of the Welcome Resource Center in Belize City, it’s a daytime drop in center for the city’s homeless population.

 

Joyce Ellis

“They’re shortcomings are things we, the general public, take for granted. For example: the idea of going home to a house and a comfortable bed to sleep in, the idea that you have family members around you can stop anytime you choose, you get your three meals and you know where you will get that next paycheck or that next person to take to from. Be thankful for what you have. Please people be thankful for what you have and the idea that sometimes some people don’t want to be in certain situations and they are forced into it, hence peer pressure and sometimes it’s the choices they make. But I believe in second chances and the resource center is there as a second chance for our participants for them to come find a place that they can call home during the day. It is just a drop in.”

 

Just a drop in, which is where the idea for the fundraiser comes from. After the participants spend the day at the center, they’ve had a meal, a bath and maybe some TV time – they return to their home at night….the dark streets of Belize City.

 

Joyce Ellis

“At night it is nerve wracking for myself and my staff and especially when we hear about storms and the weather is bad and things like that we worry. If we hear about any incidents happening downtown and it involves an individual we think about the population we serve. It is very nerve wracking for us.  People Take advantage of them. Just the idea that you know what yes they leave here today but we might not see them tomorrow and for me we are like a family.”

 

The center has almost registered participants. Not all drop in everyday but some are regulars. Joyce says the population is a mix of mentally ill people, addicts and deportees. Over the years, they have managed to integrate some of the participants back with their families. She admits that fighting the stigma of addiction and mental illness is still a major barrier.

 

Joyce Ellis

“When I go downtown at night on weekends or at night and I see them sleeping out there and they’re sleeping together the dogs and everything else and all the elements. No one chooses to live like that. It has to be that something is wrong for you to be in that situation.”

 

To have better understanding, all Belizeans are invited to join the event on Saturday night. Registration is twenty-five dollars and you get a t-shirt and a cardboard box. Of course, amenities like bathrooms and security will be provided.

 

Joyce Ellis

“I would hope that people will walk away with appreciation for what they have one and two to be mindful of people who are not in the same situation like them. It’s not too say you will be in a that situation but we never now.”

 

All proceeds will go towards maintenance of the welcome resource center and the homeless that they serve.

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