The Cornell Coalition for the Homeless hosted its annual Sleepout Against Homelessness on Saturday. According to Julia Harris ’04, co-volunteer coordinator, the purpose of the event was “to make students aware that homelessness is an issue in Ithaca and elsewhere.”
“We want students to know, as one of our speakers expressed, that when you are homeless you sleep with a knife in your boot with your back against the wall,” she added. Another student commented on the reasons that the coalition sponsors this event as well.
“The purpose of the Sleepout is two-fold — it is to raise awareness on campus because students do not see a lot of homeless [people] and it is to make a bridge between the students on campus and in the community. It is in no way to simulate homelessness,” said Harris.
The Sleepout Against Homelessness has been an annual event for the coalition for a few years.
“The Sleepout has been happening since ’96,” said Lisa Krauthamer ’04, publicity and fundraising coordinator for the Cornell Coalition for the Homeless “… It is mostly to raise awareness on campus and to educate ourselves and get a dialogue going.”
According to Krauthamer, the events of the day started with several service projects attended by approximately 60 people, which included removing leftover furniture from the former Delta Upsilon fraternity’s house for donation to the Red Cross. Later, there were several speeches by Fred Wilcox, a professor at Ithaca College who was homeless for over six years, and Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
According to Harris, there was also an appearance from the a cappella group Key Elements. The singing and a slide presentation entitled “The Faces of Homelessness” also attracted a considerable amount of attention from students walking by, as observed by Harris. This event was followed with a candlelight vigil and panhandling in Collegetown.
One of the most important parts of the days’s events, according to Krauthamer, was the panhandling in Collegetown, when participants walked through the area asking people on the street for money for charities.
“It is about looking people in the eye and asking them for money and them not looking back,” Krauthamer commented. “And we are students, imagine the reaction to the homeless. Even though they are homeless, they are still people and they deserve respect.”
Harris commented on the outcome of the panhandling.
“The panhandling was very successful. We raised about $370,” she said.
The money raised will go the Red Cross in Ithaca and to Scotty’s Place, which is a camp in West Virginia for inner city homeless children.
Local businesses also made donations of food and supplies for the participants in the Sleepout, two of whom were homeless.
“Soliciting monetary donations from businesses for the homeless is something that we are doing but not in connection with this event,” Harris said.
According to Michael Moschella ’02, treasurer of the Cornell Coalition for the Homeless, members of the coalition believe very strongly in the importance of the event.
“People don’t know that there are homeless people in Ithaca, that there are people living in our community without a home.” Moschella said. “People could go hand out quartercards and bring in speakers as much as they like, but when students put on this sort of event, it takes it up to a higher level of awareness.”
Moschella also commented on the history of the group.
“Eight years ago, there were over five hundred registered student organizations, and none dealt with a huge issue on our society,” he said.
Rebecca Kleinhandler ’04 was one of several students who slept on Ho Plaza on Saturday night and talked about her experience.
“Iit is such a great opportunity to make other students aware of the situation and shows how much support for this cause that there is,” said Kleinhandler. “I’m from New York City. That’s something I see every day when I’m home. It is certainly hard to see it in Ithaca — we’re so isolated at Cornell, but when you go downtown it is a much more prevalent issue.”
Archived article by Chris Mitchell