Updated: Thursday Nov. 12, 4:50 p.m.
More than 100 students got a real-life glimpse of homelessness right on school grounds last week.
During Nov. 5’s “A Night in Solidarity”, students slept on the Great Lawn in an initiative to boost poverty awareness on campus.
The event began in St. Thomas More Church with guest speaker Matthew Works and a documentary about homelessness.
Works, who was formerly homeless himself, now works for the art department of Pennsylvania’s York College.
He has spoken at many colleges and universities including Harvard, Dartmouth and Fordham.
Later in the evening, the participants moved outside onto the Great Lawn where they would spend the night. The event was made to simulate a night spent on the streets.
Bag lunches were available to participants, as well as coffee donated by Dunkin Donuts.
“The goal of the event is to raise awareness about homelessness by hearing from someone who has been there and also by putting yourself in that situation for a night,” said Campus Minister Abby Furness, who helped organized the event. “The program can provide a new perspective on what it really means to be without a roof over your head [or] a warm, dry bed to sleep in every night.”
Furness said she hoped that students would “take away a greater understanding of a first-hand experience of homelessness.”Freshman Nkosi Kiteme said he believed the gathering was important to raise awareness.
“People don’t pay attention to homelessness,” he said.
Another student, Yasmin Alabed, said, “There are many people who are homeless. We take things for granted.”
Freshman Chris Germaine said he thought it was a unique experience for St. John’s students.
“No one here knows what it’s like to sleep outside at night.”
Senior Ludy Registre said she appreciated Works’ participation in the event.
“He gives a real life experience,” she said. “He shows how you can come out of poverty.”
Registre said she saw an increase in attendance at the event from the previous year.
Germaine said he assumed that the weather would keep people away.
“I didn’t think that many people would attend because it is so cold,” he said.