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ISSUE 117 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/31/2003

Sleep-out raises empathy

By Lauren Radomski
Staff Writer

Friday, October 31, 2003

Last Thursday night, the members of Felland House, as well as a few other students, participated in a homeless sleep-out on Mellby lawn. They braved the cold and rain in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes in order to both raise money for People Serving People (PSP), a shelter in Minneapolis, and bring the issue of homelessness to the attention of students at St. Olaf.

Throughout the year, the members of Felland House organize groups of students to volunteer at PSP, which, according to the Charities Review Council, is a shelter "committed to ensuring a safe, sober, respectful environment for homeless families."

Founded in 1982, the shelter provides housing for over 350 people per night. It also "provides on-site access to community services, including a variety of educational programs for children of all ages, health care, counseling, battered women’s programs, employment services and housing assistance."

Families living at PSP receive three meals a day, and the students organized by Felland House are some of the volunteers who come to the shelter to help serve these meals. Sleep-out participants found sponsors who made donations, and all of the money collected went to PSP.

The sleep-out started at 9:30 p.m. The students, bundled up in hats, sweatpants, jackets, mittens and sweatshirts, set up their camp, which consisted of pillows, sleeping bags and boxes arranged on a large, blue tarp. Later, they wrote statistics about homelessness on the sidewalks around campus.

During the night, the participants had the opportunity to explain their mission to other students passing by. According to Kari Landenberger ‘05, "People were quite inquisitive and considerate and were passionate in wanting to know what we were doing. It was meaningful, because we felt as though we were finally bringing awareness to campus."

The 11 participants expected to wake around seven the next morning, but when they were surprised with a rain shower at about a quarter to six, they decided to call it a night. Landenberger said that participants were "encouraged to go to classes and perform their normal, everyday routines the next day without taking a nap or showering."

Although this proved to be a difficult task, it made the participants even more aware of the plight of the homeless.

"Having to go about my normal day without having slept well and with no shower helped me empathize, more than I ever could have, with people who have to do this every day," said Carolyn Hollstein ‘05.

A few organizations donated items that made the sleep-out a little easier. Target gave them cardboard boxes. Bon Appétit donated $80 worth of apple cider and hot chocolate, which Hollstein said "was a very kind gesture that was much appreciated by all those who participated in the sleep-out." Also, Residence Life borrowed a grill for the sleep-outers.

Hollstein said, "Though we recognized the challenging nature of sleeping outdoors at the end of October, we knew that hosting a sleep-out was an invaluable way to both raise awareness on campus as well as directly raise funds for the People Serving People homeless shelter."

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