Sleep Out for Hunger and Homelessness sheds light on under-recognized community issue

A group of Buffalo State students, community and service members will lay down cardboard boxes, embrace the unwelcoming chill of the night and advocate for homelessness awareness tonight


Photo submitted

Students and community members band together to advocate for homelessness and hunger awareness at 2016’s Sleep Out.

Dan Almasi, Executive Editor

NYPIRG’s annual Sleep Out for Hunger and Homelessness event aims to “speak out about the epidemic of hunger and homelessness in the Buffalo community.”

Homelessness is a big issue that’s not always treated like one, said NYPIRG Buffalo Project Coordinator Wes Thomas. His and other involved student organizations will carry a proverbial torch tonight, shedding light on an understated issue

“I feel the issue of homelessness is something that’s obviously never going to go away,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, you don’t see it covered in the news as often due to a lot of the other polarizing issues that are happening in the world right now. I feel like issues like this kind of get brushed under the rug.”

According to Western New York Homeless Alliance’s most recent annual report, there were 5,455 homeless people in Western New York two years ago. One in three of WNY’s homeless population is children ages 1 to 18.

The event begins at 8 p.m. and takes place under the Cleveland Hall archway on campus. Campus organizations will hold tables, press conferences for local media outlets, start speeches about what they do within their organizations to help the issues and start fact-based conversations.

The Student Political Society will discuss current legislation regarding homelessness and what can be done to help enact new legislation that will help the issue.

It’s against the rules to be outside on campus past 1 a.m., so they don’t literally spend the night outside. But they do take breaks between speeches to stretch the event out, let the chill sink in and show solidarity. The event will end at approximately midnight.

“We do try to do it an nighttime so it’s a little more uncomfortable, and we don’t provide any seats or anything, so people have to sit on the floor so people understand how difficult it is to be outside,” Thomas said. “It should get a little cold tonight, which is a good thing. Last year it got pretty chilly.”

Homelessness is often a big issue on college campuses, and Buffalo State is no exception. The Sleep Out aims to bring light to the under-recognized issue.

“People don’t realize that on college campuses there are plenty of cases of homelessness and also hunger,” Thomas said. “There’s definitely a lot of homelessness here at Buffalo State alone.”

Buffalo State’s Alternative Spring Break, Student Political Society, NAACP and ROTC Club are also involved in the planning and execution of the event. Representatives from People Inc. and the Western New York Homeless Alliance will also be in attendance. All students and community members are welcome and encouraged to join the public demonstration.

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