"Tin of salmon from the food bank for supper but no can opener!" wrote Dr. Annette Epp on her Twitter page on June 2.
Dr. Epp, Clinical Head of Gynecology for Saskatoon Health Region, was one of 10 local celebrities who participated in the second annual Sanctum Survivor (video), a city-wide fundraiser to raise awareness about homelessness, poverty, HIV and chronic illness.
She was joined by Dr. Morris Markentin, a family medicine physician at the Saskatoon Community Clinic who specializes in addictions and treating people living with HIV and Hepatitis C.
"4:11 am – why are the birds sooo loud in the park! Do they not sleep? Still awake!" wrote Dr. Markentin on his Twitter page while trying to sleep in Kinsmen Park.
In teams of two, participants were given tasks to complete within a 36-hour timeframe. Each task aimed to demonstrate certain challenges (e.g., hand hygiene, laundering clothes) that are an everyday reality for those living on the street. In an attempt to make the challenges as realistic as possible, participants were not given anything to assist them on their journey – they wore donated clothes and shoes, and they were required to source their own food and lodging. Participants had access to a cell phone, but only for the purpose of updating their social media sites on their journey.
Dr. Epp was partnered with author Yann Martel. In addition to visiting the Food Bank and having lunch at the Friendship Inn, Dr. Epp spent part of her 36 hours on the street caught in a hailstorm at St. Anne's Church, pressed up against a brick wall to block the wind and torrential rain. She also took fellow Survivor Zoey Roy, a Métis poet, hip-hop artist and activist, to St. Paul's Hospital to simulate how a homeless person would deal with a broken arm.
Dr. Annette Epp (right) with fellow Survivor Zoey Roy (left).
Dr. Markentin and his partner, Leanne Bellegarde, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at PotashCorp, were given the diabetes challenges, which involved testing their blood sugars regularly.
"The first time I had to test, we were outside the Food Bank sitting on a planter – I dumped my entire testing kit into the dirt," said Dr. Markentin. "There was no place to wash my hands and I was feeling very exposed on the street."
Dr. Morris Markentin in the park, where he'll spend the night.
The fundraiser, which ran from 6 a.m. on Friday, June 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, was hosted by Sanctum Care Group in conjunction with Lux Events, volunteers and community organizations. Sanctum is a not-for-profit charitable organization that opened Saskatchewan's first HIV transitional care home and hospice in November 2015. Its mission is to provide care to people living with HIV and AIDS that is dignified, non-judgmental and unconditional.
Proceeds from this event will go to Sanctum and Sanctum 1.5, which will be Saskatchewan's first HIV prenatal care home – a 10-bed facility that will support high-risk, HIV-positive pregnant women through an integrated and holistic approach to care.
"The goal of the home is to prevent the transmission of HIV to the unborn baby throughout the pregnancy and at birth, and to provide planning support for the unborn baby to prevent him or her from entering the foster care system," said Katelyn Roberts, Executive Director of Sanctum Care Group.
Women who live at Sanctum 1.5 will receive high-quality medical, social and practical support to overcome barriers to care, such as addiction and homelessness. After birth, Sanctum 1.5 will continue to house and support mother and baby to ensure critical bonding and support in order to achieve the best outcomes for both mother and child.
Research indicates that 75 per cent of people living with HIV who are homeless and without support will die within five years.
"36 hours homeless – I would not survive 365 days – those with HIV don't either without support!" wrote Dr. Markentin, who is also the president and co-founder of Sanctum. This was his second year participating in the challenge.
Donations are still being accepted for Sanctum and Sanctum 1.5. To donate, visit Sanctum Care Group and click on the Donate Now button at the top of the page.
View all of Dr. Markentin's Twitter posts.
View all of Dr. Epps's Twitter posts.
Watch a video about Sanctum Survivor 2017.
Watch a video about Sanctum Care Group.