Yale students raised around $600 for the homeless in New Haven by huddling together in tents and sleeping bags on Old Campus Friday night.
Roughly 70 students gathered on Old Campus for a “sleepout,” partaking in music and other activities before migrating to their tents for the night. The event was part of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project’s “Shelter Now” fundraising campaign — an effort that began in 2008 and has continued every year since to bolster funding and awareness for New Haven’s winter homeless shelters.
The money raised from this year’s sleepout will go to Connecticut’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, a government project initiated in February 2009 to help fund shelters nationwide. To date, the Shelter Now campaign has raised more than $92,000, according to YHHAP’s website.
At the start of the evening, Alison Cunningham, director of Columbus House, a homeless services provider that runs a shelter on Ella Grasso Boulevard, spoke to the event’s participants about the pervasive nature of homelessness in the Elm City. Every evening, she said, Columbus House’s emergency shelter fills to its 125-person capacity and has to turn away many other homeless people.
“The city keeps cutting our budget every year,” Cunningham, who also serves on the YHHAP board of advisors, said. “We are full to the brim.”
Jennifer Friedmann ’13, YHHAP assistant director, said the sleepout was difficult to coordinate, but she was satisfied with the event’s turnout.
“We’ve been planning this event ever since the summer,” Friedmann said. “[Its] organization involved things ranging from getting the fire marshal’s approval for setting up the grill, to making sure the event [did] not coincide with Safety Dance.”
Six students interviewed said they were inspired to spend the night on Old Campus by a desire to both have fun and raise awareness for an important cause.
“It’s like camping, only that you are actually doing something helpful,” Jessica Tordoff ’15 said. “I really enjoy this kind of grassroots activism. Ultimately, it’s all about empathy.”
Hira Hasnain ’15 and Rushika Pattni ’15, who served on the event’s organizing committee, said they were excited to take part in the YHHAP-run event, which Hasnain described as a “fun way” to make a difference.
“YHHAP people actually care and go out to help others, whereas many Yale organizations lack the incentive to commit to such direct service,” Pattni said.
During the evening, participants in the sleepout listened to performances by two singing groups — the Yale Women’s Slavic Chorus and Out of the Blue — and danced to country music.