Edmonton Teen Sleeps in Tent to Spotlight Homelessness

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While his family and classmates sleep in the comfort of their warm homes, Collin Messelink sleeps outside, burrowed inside his sleeping bag in a small tent. The 17-year-old student from Edmonton (Alberta) Christian High School has been sleeping out in his backyard every night since October 1 to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise funds for Mosaic Centre, a safe place in northeast Edmonton for people facing all aspects of poverty.

Anyone who knows about northern Alberta winters will understand that this is no small feat. There was one five-day stretch, for example, when the temperature dropped to -40C (-40F). Messelink’s mother, Juliet, said there was no talking her son out of his idea. “He’s the most determined person I know.”

Messelink, a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, admitted that the reason he chooses to sleep in a tent is a mystery even to him. “People do not understand why I will put myself through this unneeded discomfort night in night out,” he said. “The reason is the same reason people run hundreds of kilometers or why climbers struggle to ascend massive mountains. It is because those experiences are the richest in life. I hope my efforts challenge myself and positively impact someone’s life.”

Messelink was inspired after hearing a talk by the three women who founded Mosaic Centre. “I could not think of anything more noble,” he said, “than putting your own needs aside in order to help someone in need.” In one interview, Messelink described what he’s doing as showing the love of Jesus to people he doesn’t know. “If I could sum it up in one sentence,” he said, “it would be that I sleep outside so other people don’t have to.”

Messelink won’t let anything interfere with his commitment to sleeping outdoors for six months. On a recent high school ski trip, he slept outside on the hotel balcony.

Donations for Mosaic Centre were few and slow in coming until a photo and story about Messelink appeared on the front page of the Edmonton Journal. Since then, complete strangers have donated and given Collin words of encouragement. “It has been over whelming,” his mother said. “We give thanks to God for every one of them!”

About the Author

Janet Greidanus is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.