Students ‘sleep out’ to help end homelessness in Trenton

The College’s Chapter of Habitat for Humanity held its fourth annual Sleep Out to Speak Out Against Homelessness on Nov. 16. Although many clubs on campus run activities to promote awareness about important causes, few take such bold steps to get their message across.

The Sleep Out is distinctive in this respect – it began at 7 p.m. on Nov. 16 and ended at 10 a.m. the following day. Members of Habitat volunteered to stay outside for the whole night, using only cardboard boxes as sleeping quarters to raise awareness about the number of people living in poverty so close to campus, a fact that many students may not consider.

“There are many amenities that we take for granted, like running water and heat, that not everyone has access to,” Dupal Patel, Habitat liaison, said.

Habitat members accepted donations throughout the event. All of the money raised will be donated to the East Trenton Chapter of Habitat. Pat Abolt, volunteer coordinator for Trenton Habitat, explained the impact the College’s activities have as a whole.

“Every event that takes place on behalf of the Trenton Area Habitat for Humanity helps in many ways – getting volunteers, getting information about our projects out and sometimes getting funds,” Abolt said.

Abolt also explained that donations are put toward a number of things at the Trenton Habitat. The center has a food pantry, a produce distribution program, programs that provide sleeping arrangements during cold weather months, as well as clothing distribution.

“Our organization’s goal is to provide affordable, decent homes for adults and children who were previously living in substandard or overcrowded conditions,” Abolt said. “To date, we’ve built 60 homes and have more in the process of construction. Our affiliate’s goal is to eliminate substandard housing in East Trenton by 2010.”

In addition to the Sleep Out, Habitat also conducts other activities on campus. On Oct. 27, they held an event entitled “Habitat Rocks the Rat.” Two bands were featured at the fundraiser, Quimby Mountain Band and Don’t Wash David. Members were able to generate a profit of $130.

On Nov. 9, Habitat held a meeting that featured a guest speaker, Stephen Brame, the director of the East Trenton Chapter. Brame spoke about a new plan to help rebuild Trenton. The plan focuses on community development and building to “critical mass,” which refers to a cluster of homes in a given region that can provide support for families by preventing the problem of gang violence. To implement this plan, Trenton Habitat plans to build a total of 10 to 15 homes per year.

Brame also spoke about programs geared more toward children, such as an after-school program and summer programs. The College’s chapter of Habitat is in the process of coordinating ways to interact more with the East Trenton chapter. For instance, groups of students will soon be helping to tutor children at the East Trenton community center during the after-school program.

“Students will be tutoring in various subjects, ranging from math, English, social studies and everyday health,” Stephanie Giordano, co-chair of Habitat’s education committee, said. “There will also be reading programs to help teach children how to read, as well as increase their reading levels.”

Students will also be able to help with the food pantry at the community center.

The events that the College’s chapter of Habitat are most known for are its site visits. Once a month, members travel to Trenton to assist the East Trenton chapter in the construction of its houses. Once finished, these homes are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with no-interest loans. Trenton Habitat currently has several properties under construction that students are able to contribute to. Site visits are open to all students; both members and non-members are selected to participate through a lottery system, since not all volunteers are able to go at once.

Trips are also organized during both winter and spring breaks. This year’s winter break location will be rural Exmore, Va. from Jan. 8 to 14. Inga Hye, acting co-president of Habitat, shared her thoughts on her previous trips.

“Only after attending a spring break trip with Habitat for Humanity in order to fulfill a freshman seminar requirement did I really become aware of the beauty of Habitat for Humanity as an organization . my experiences with the winter and spring break trips have contributed to some of my favorite memories in all of my time at the College,” Hye said.

Students interested in joining Habitat for Humanity can attend its meetings Wednesday afternoons at 12:30 p.m. in Brower Student Center, Room 202 West.