Habitat for Humanity boxes out homelessness

On Thursday night, the College’s Habitat for Humanity set out to accomplish something that most people hope they will never have to do: spend a night sleeping in a cardboard box. The annual Sleep Out to Speak Out Against Homelessness event serves to raise awareness and collect food for the homeless in the Trenton area.

Beginning Saturday afternoon, members of the organization gathered on the lawn between Green Hall and Brower Student Center to arrange their boxes. According to Stephanie Giordano, senior finance major and Habitat president, between 15 to 20 people attended the event and 10 students made the decision to spend the night outside.

“Set up outside of the student center, there are many people who walked past and saw the event,” Giordano said. “Some passerbys would just give us strange looks and walk on by quickly, and others donated food that will be given to East Trenton Habitat’s food pantry and asked us if we would be warm enough.”

The group was successful in collecting a large amount of food for the Trenton food pantry. In general, the donations were made by students who were willing to spend their points for a good cause.

According to Ted Zebrowski, senior accounting major, the College is not alone in holding this event annually. “It’s an international event,” he said. “Colleges everywhere do this. It’s for awareness.” He added that “missing your bed for a night seems so simple, but this lets you see how bad it can be.”

“It’s exciting,” Allison Pollio, sophomore engineering major, said. “I’ve never slept in a box before. … I don’t think many people get to experience what it’s really like to be homeless.”

Giordano said the Sleep Out was held “in conjunction with Act! Speak! Build! week, which is Habitat’s student initiated week of advocacy. Act! Speak! Build! empowers young people to educate themselves and their communities and move communities to social action.”

In addition to this event, Habitat for Humanity raised $500 for the East Trenton Habitat for Humanity Center that will be used to build new houses. The group is also holding a volleyball tournament today. The proceeds from the tournament will go to support Habitat’s cause.

“There will be Saturday and Wednesday construction site visits offered to students,” Giordano said. “Over winter break, (the College’s) Habitat will be planning a week-long trip to help build homes outside of New Jersey. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and it’s fortunate that the results of our labor are apparent. The more houses that we build, the more people will have simple, decent, affordable housing.”

Overall, the members of Habitat for Humanity felt that the Sleep Out was a successful way to meet their goal of awareness.

“Many were surprised to see that there were people inside of the boxes, especially in the morning,” Giordano said. “It was this kind of reaction that we hoped to elicit: for others to see that there are students who feel passionate about this cause enough to give up a night in their comfortable beds to sleep outside in boxes on the ground. If we can evoke emotions in others, this could hopefully inspire them to act. Bringing the homelessness problem to the forefront is essential if we want to get anything done.”