Thanking students for their support, Allison Cunningham, the executive director of the homeless shelter Columbus House, asked attendees of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project’s Shelter Now Sleepout on Friday night to name the one thing all homeless people need. While some may need a job, she continued, or addictions counseling, or treatment for mental health issues, all homeless people inescapably need a home.
A home: as the event progressed from serious talk to contra-dancing, Dwight Hall was alive with chatter, fiddle music and laughing, weaving bodies. Just outside, marshmallows swelled golden brown over an open charcoal grill-turned-sweetly-redolent-autumn-campfire. While students played volleyball and Frisbee on the Old Campus green, a rogue chain of contra-dancers, hands clasped all the way down the line, contemplated dancing around the entire quadrangle.
An uncertain freshman, I was surrounded by glowing faces that I suddenly knew, by a community that could form a new home for me 11 hours away from the one I know. Overflowing with riches, suddenly, on a cold night on the corner of Old Campus ‚ hot tea, graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate, the smell of bonfire smoke, the voices of Out of the Blue and the Yale Slavic Chorus, acquaintances and friends — I couldn’t think of anything more valuable than helping someone else to find a home. Of the things that we all need on an October night, when the idea of winter adds its voice to the chilly air, a home is the most necessary and the most profound.