Beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 until 6 a.m. on Saturday, West Chester University participated in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week by hosting the first annual Sleepout to End Hunger and Homelessness.
This event is actually a national event, taking place on campuses all over the country through the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. According to their website, “the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness is a project of the Center for Public Interest Research, Inc. The Campaign is committed to ending hunger and homelessness in America by educating, engaging, and training students to directly meet individual’s immediate needs while advocating for long-term systemic solutions.”
WCU decided to show its support of the homeless in their area by participating in this event. Students from WCU formed teams and set up tents, cardboard boxes, and other forms of shelter on the residential quad between University and Brandywine Halls. Participating students stayed outside overnight in order to raise awareness as well as to generate donations. Each student could stay for as little as one hour or as long as twelve, and for every hour that each student stays out, something is donated (i.e., for every hour someone is outside, the sponsor will donate one canned good, $1-2, a pack of socks, a scarf, etc.). The donations from the event will be going to local West Chester area food pantries, including the West Chester Food Cupboard, the Chester County Food bank, and other Chester County Area shelters.
A list of the suggested donations is canned goods (especially tuna fish, peanut butter, and low-sodium vegetable soup), packs of socks or t-shirts, hats, scarves, grocery store gift cards, sleeping bags, blankets, and toiletry kits.
Keeping these things in mind, WCU can make a big difference for the Chester County area shelters, because if each sponsor decides to donate just $1 per hour to a team comprised of 10, that’s $10 per hour; and if each team member stayed out for the entire night, that could mean $120. If the sponsor donated canned goods or scarves, then it’s 120 cans, 120 scarves, etc., which makes a difference in the Chester County Area shelters.
The event began at 5:30 p.m. with team captains registering their teams and setting up shelter. Participants began arriving at 6 p.m. and the residential quad shortly became very crowded.
“I couldn’t believe how many people showed up,”participant,Colleen Curry said. “But it’s great, since it’s for such a worthy cause.”
Representatives from the Chester County Area shelters and the local branch of Habitat for Humanity gave brief presentations, and even the governor stopped by to commend us for our cause.
As the event continued, two movies were projected that had a theme of homelessness in them: “The Blindside” and “The Soloist.” Warm snacks and drinks were also offered, such as chicken noodle soup, s’mores, chili, coffee, and hot cocoa.
As the event continued, the temperature continued to drop, reaching a low of 32 degrees over the course of the night.
“It was absolutely freezing, but it served its purpose,” contributor Shannon Nolan said. “I feel worse for homeless people than I ever have before,” agreed her fellow teammate Nadia Thomas.
Around 5:30 a.m., the ‘homeless’ on the quad began packing up their tents.
This event was a success with at least 30 tents on the academic quad.
Clare Haggerty is a first-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at CH757342@wcupa.edu.