Fredericton — A group of enterprising kindergartners who are just learning their numbers are planning to set out in the streets of the capital city and count anyone who appears to be homeless.
Laura Little, 31, a teacher at Priestman Street Elementary School, says she couldn’t be more proud of her 5-year-old students who are dead-set against homelessness in the city, and who are already doing more than the City of Fredericton ever has to combat the issue.
“They asked me, ‘Mrs. Little, what can we do to stop homelessness in Fredericton?’ and I told them, ‘You know what? Why don’t we just try to count all of them first. Once we know how many there are, we can go from there.'”
Each of the students will receive a gold star sticker next to their name on their classroom “Homelessness Chart” for every homeless person they spot. When the chart — made up of several brightly coloured pieces of Bristol board — is full, the class will present it to city officials who will hopefully do something about it.
Kindergarten student Bryce Barrie, 5-and-a-half, said he’s hoping to hold the city of Fredericton accountable and to see some real change enacted in homelessness legislation. “Since I was just 3-and-a-half I’ve listened to the politicians’ promises, seen their fallible plans inevitably fall flat. And since I learned how to count last month, I’ve realized that it all comes down to whether you believe that man is inherently good or evil. And also whether you believe in free will, or in predestination.”
Mrs. Little said a handful of her more advanced students can already count by twos, so they will be assigned the areas of town that are more densely populated with homeless people. “My all-stars Becky, Elliot and Bryce are going to be paired with some weaker counters. But all of my students have their special strengths. For example, Carrie really knows her colours and can spot people who look different from her a mile away — in this case people who blend in with the background. She may notice a person lying on a sidewalk that a better counter like Bryce would completely overlook.
“It’s all about teamwork.”
Student Devon Norris, 4-and-three-quarters, is excited about the project’s potential. “Being from Fredericton, I’ve learned early on to identify anyone who is… how should I put this… not as ‘fortunate’ as I am. I know when I see a grownup sitting in a cardboard box and holding a cup that they’re not playing house and it’s not juice they want. I’m almost 5 — I’m not an idiot.”
“They’re easy to spot and even easier to ignore,” said Aurora Burton, another student. “The city’s problem, in my opinion, has always been the criminalization of poverty. And what were they thinking with those ‘Kindness Metres’? I have a Dora the Explorer lunchbox and even I can see the glaring flaws in that little endeavour.”