As the weather gets colder, the heat starts cranking in the dorms and various buildings around campus. Students are fortunate to have such well-kept shelters to go to after a long day of studying and trekking to class through the cold and wind. Unlike the fortunate students at WCU, there are people in the United States who are not as fortunate. In fact, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, in 2009, it was recorded that 110,917 adults in the United States did not have a shelter to call home. In addition, our country would be able to find just over 76,000 Veterans experiencing homelessness on any given night in 2010. It is statistics like these that provoke the question: “What can I do to help?”
In an attempt to answer this, students and staff at WCU have organized an event to promote awareness of the issue and provide help to those in need. Each year the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week the week before Thanksgiving. This year, Chester County, and more specifically WCU, will be a part of this national effort. On Friday, Nov. 18 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., students will be able to participate in the Sleep Out for Hunger and Homelessness event taking place in the residential quad.
“People should attend the Sleep Out because it can give back in an unorthodox way,” Resident Director Dawna Jones said. “So many people go night after night without a home. We are using just 12 hours to do our part and bring awareness. It is an important cause to support.”
The Sleep Out allows participants to “walk in the shoes” of the homeless by sleeping outside at night. For each hour the participants sleep outside, others pledge to donate items, such as socks or non-perishable food items, which can be used to fight in the battle against hunger and homelessness. Teams may choose to make donations themselves in lieu of a sponsor if they would prefer to. Students were able to register as a team or individually to sleep out during the event. Information about the event is currently available at www.wcupa.orgsync.com/org/waynehall/SleepOut.
“Even if people don’t have time to dedicate to the Sleep Out there are so many other ways for them to contribute,” fourth-year student Shannon Everett said. “While the act of sleeping out promotes the awareness of the cause, it is also important to remember we’re trying to make physical donations toward the cause as well.”
Participants will bear the weather throughout the night for as many hours as they can handle. Teams are able to split the hours up amongst each member if desired. Participants will be provided with food and warm beverages throughout the night, as well as entertainment, such as various games and a movie. While these are all great things to be provided with, something participants could really use is the support of fellow students, faculty and staff.
“We want this event to be something that could happen each year on campus,” third-year Colleen Gibson said. “This is something that affects people in our community; just look at how many shelters we have in town. Hopefully this project becomes a staple among the service opportunities at West Chester University.”
People who are participating are reminded to dress in warm layers and are allowed to bring a tent and any type of sleeping materials they would like. There are still ways to be involved if groups missed the sign up deadline.
Sarah Gurgal is a third-year student majoring in excercise science. She can be reached at SG727785@wcupa.edu.