By Katie Zeck
The temperatures were cold and the ground was hard, but the spirit of caring was warm for over 50 students who participated in Rider’s fourth annual “Sleep Out for Homelessness” on the Campus Mall Wednesday night.
According to Jane Sanchez, coordinator of Rider’s Community Service Council, the event aims to gather students to join in solidarity to raise awareness about the issues of homelessness.
“There’s no way you could ever feel what it’s really like to be homeless,” she said. “We don’t want to be insensitive to that.”
On Wednesday, the Community Service Council announced that the event would not take place over night — it ended at 12 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. — because of the very low temperatures. However, Sanchez said that this did not affect the overall goal of the Sleep Out.
“Despite this change, we wanted to make sure that we were following through with the efforts our students put into the event,” she said. “I think students were still able to join in the sense of community. It was fun, but we did make a point to have a moment of reverence for the cause of homelessness.”
Secondary education and history major Chris Werner was on the seven-person Hunger and Homelessness Awareness committee. He explained what it was like to be a participant of the Sleep Out.
“We were given warm hot chocolate and coffee upon arrival as temperatures plunged into the twenties,” he said. “Students who were walking by came over to the mall to see what was going on and we explained that we were sleeping outside to be thankful for our homes we often take for granted. I felt like we spread awareness to an issue that was important to my heart and a pressing issue in our community.”
The majority of the night, which was hosted by the Bonner Leadership Team — the student leaders which oversee the Bonner Community Scholars, was spent building cardboard box abodes.
According to Werner, who is also the senior class president, a member of the Bonner Leadership Team and the community outreach chair of the Residence Hall Association (RHA), RHA contributed funds to have a cardboard home-building contest.
“We received many boxes from Five Below, HomeGoods and American Eagle Outfitters,” he said. “Each group of students built a team to participate in the box home-building contest. The best decorated, most exotic and best-built structure received gift cards to restaurants in the area. The committee purchased more than $150 in gift cards to award the five best winning teams.”
The judges from RHA and Bonner awarded Sigma Phi Epsilon first prize for its cardboard structure, Conover Hall won second place, the sophomore class received third place, Hill Hall was fourth and West Village came in fifth.
“Through the Sleep Out, we hope to educate our residents about the very real implications of homelessness and how it pertains individually to each of our students,” he said. “This activity helps educate students about the very starling realities of homelessness especially as it pertains to our university home in Mercer County,” Werner said.
Printed in the 11-30-12 issue.