Students hope to raise awareness of homelessness

If you are searching for something to do tonight, then look no further than HOPE Hall’s second annual Homelessness Sleep-Out, which kicks off at 7 p.m. on the lawn outside Murchison Lounge and residence hall. Open to the entire Trinity student body, this year’s Sleep-Out schedule includes dinner and a documentary, which is followed by discussion and rounded out by s’mores and games of Apples to Apples and Taboo.

“The purpose of this sleep-out is not to try to experience homelessness—because this in no way is comparable—but it  is a way for us to gain  a new perspective and raise awareness on campus,” said sophomore Melody Sowder, HOPE Hall campus event lead. “You see people sleeping on the front lawn, which raises questions, and we want to get people passionate about it and talking about it.”

According to Sowder, 2,500 people in San Antonio are homeless on any given night. This includes both the chronically homeless and families that are having a hard time making ends meet. In addition to raising awareness about homelessness, the Sleep-Out is intended as a haven for discussion in which people can ask questions.

“There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding homeless people that aren’t true, and one of the great things about the Sleep-Out is that there’s a space created to ask questions in a non-judging way. People can learn more and have these dialogues about a population that’s not usually talked about,” said senior Katie Ogawa, director of HOPE Hall. “Going off this idea of creating a space, if there is anyone who comes to the Sleep-Out who is not from HOPE Hall, I hope they get a better idea of who these homeless people are, realizing and remembering their humanity.”

The documentary that will be shown is titled “Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home” (2010) and focuses on Skid Row in Los Angeles, which is home to one of the largest homeless populations in the United States.

“‘Lost Angels’ is not all about homelessness, but it is about a place people are familiar with and brings a lot of different ideas,” Sowder said. “It’s a good way to talk about one specific area, and we want to bring that home and talk about San Antonio in general.”

For junior Ben Whitehead, the HOPE Hall accountability lead, one important aspect of HOPE Hall and the Sleep-Out are the significant connections it fosters.

“Part of HOPE Hall as an entire program, for me, is this idea of connecting people and providing an outlet to make those connections,” Whitehead said. “Trinity is a place with people who are really powerful in the broad scheme of things. We’re a student body that’s intelligent and driven, and connecting us with those hidden populations, like people who are experiencing homelessness and people who are marginalized in society, is really important for me. Another part of it for me is making connections with people who are interested in service and giving back to the community by using all our different talents and abilities to serve others.”

All one needs to attend the Sleep-Out is a pillow, a blanket and warm clothes.

“It’s a big slumber party,” Ogawa said. “What’s better than a slumber party?”