Saskatchewan REALTORS® Association CEO Takes an Empathetic Approach to 36-Hour Homeless Challenge

The saying “walk a mile in my shoes” is often used as a reminder that everyone is dealing with something that may not be visible to you at the surface level. Beginning Thursday, May 25, 2023, a group of community leaders in Saskatoon will spend 36 hours in the shoes of those experiencing homelessness to raise awareness and support for an urgent cause.

Amongst this group will be Chris Guérette, CEO of the Saskatchewan REALTORS® Association, who will leave behind the trappings of her everyday life to experience a small taste of the hardships faced by those experiencing poverty, homelessness, and chronic illness.

The Sanctum Survivor Challenge will pair participants in groups of two and give them a series of tasks to complete, which are meant to demonstrate challenges that society is often unaware of, during their time on the streets of Saskatoon. They’ll be given donated clothes and shoes to wear. The only personal item they can bring with them is their phone, to update the public on their journey.

Each participant must raise funds for the challenge’s organizer, Sanctum Care Group, and Guérette is determined to help their important work.

“Well, the challenge is to experience what many people in our community experience—not having a safe, regular place to live, not having a home,” said Guérette. “On top of that, it’s supporting the Sanctum Group and they do really innovative work in Saskatoon. It was at one time the only hospice that was providing care for individuals with HIV/AIDS, but that were also on the street. They were doing care differently and taking a leadership role on that [need]. They noticed that they also needed to provide a second home, and it’s called Sanctum 1.5. It is a home for young mothers who have HIV/AIDS, who don’t have a regular home, and are pregnant.”

Guérette’s passion for the cause makes her a fitting ambassador for Sanctum Care Group and the challenge. Not only does she strongly believe in the work the organization does, but she’s also willing to make the case for it to anyone. “I always say if all that emotional stuff doesn’t tug your heartstrings, then I’ll give you the business case: it saves the government $1.4 million for every mother that goes through Sanctum, and that’s without counting what the baby would need if the baby had HIV/AIDS.”

Given the seriousness of the issues, the Sanctum Group has acknowledged that the Sanctum Survivor Challenge cannot ever be an accurate reflection of what it’s really like to experience homelessness in Saskatoon. The barriers are plentiful and significant for people living in poverty and unable to afford housing. However, they state their belief that “drawing awareness to some of the many challenges will be a catalyst for real and lasting change.”

Guérette has a few goals in mind for her participation in the challenge. “Well, the first one is a fundraising goal. We have a $20,000 fundraising goal … but most importantly is awareness,” she said. After giving up her clothes and beginning the challenge, she’ll be sharing what’s happening on social media. “I would love to encourage my real estate colleagues from across the country to follow this and to donate, but most importantly, just to follow. I think it’s going to be hard. It’s already hard talking about it beforehand so I can’t imagine having to spend 36 hours on the street.”

Guérette adds, “now, more than ever, I think we have a responsibility to ensure that everybody in our society has a place to call home. That looks different for everybody, but for those who are most vulnerable—[such as] women who have HIV/AIDS, who are pregnant—I think we have a responsibility to take care of those who are most vulnerable to make sure that their children and their families are set up for success and a safe life.”

To support Chris Guérette in the Sanctum Survivor Challenge, donate here.

In his role as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Advisor, Greg Frankson helps CREA advance its commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist environment for all its employees, volunteers, and members. Prior to his time at CREA, Greg was an anti-discrimination activist on the national and international level, and has worked as an educator, writer, and public speaker for more than 20 years. When not engaged in DEIA efforts, Greg likes to read great books, write books of his own, and spend time with friends and extended family.

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