Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Sleeping Out in Solidarity

Every year, dozens of CEOs sleep outside in Times Square to raise funds for Covenant House in an event called the Solidarity Sleep Out. Covenant House is the largest organization in the western hemisphere that provides shelter, food, emergency care and a number of other services to runaway and homeless youth. Here at Georgetown, our Sleep Out’s mission is similar to the one in Times Square. The only difference is, most of us aren’t CEOs … yet.

Tonight, at 7 p.m. on the mid-level terrace between the McDonough School of Business and Regents Hall, a group of students, including my co-coordinator, Gianna Maita, and myself, will sleep outside in solidarity with homeless youth. Then, on Saturday evening, we will have a guest speaker from Covenant House D.C., a film screening, a cappella performances and a reflection led by students. These programs will undoubtedly have great value and could not have been possible without immense support from many other student groups on campus.

Youth homelessness is especially prevalent in the District. From 2011 to 2012, D.C., as well as 28 states, saw a rise in their homeless populations — highlighting Covenant House’s increasing importance. According to a report released in 2010 by the National Center on Family Homelessness, about 1.6 million children in the United States will experience homelessness each year. That is roughly one out of 45. The National Alliance to End Homelessness states that out of 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States, more than 140,000 of them are children. However, for whatever reason, these tragic facts too often go unseen or ignored.

For most of us watching winter approach, temperature dives and shorter days mean winter jackets and boots. I am blessed to have these luxuries in my life, to be where I am and have the opportunities that I have. But if I didn’t take time to reflect on these blessings, I wouldn’t notice that there are others out there who could use a hand.

I know a sleep out sounds brutal. Sleeping outside in the biting cold is the opposite of an enjoyable Friday night. But before you dismiss the possibility, think about all the success you have had because someone else gave you a hand or opened a door for you. Reflect upon the importance of Covenant House. Tomorrow morning, 2,000 young people will wake up in a Covenant House shelter. Covenant House reaches 30 cities in six countries. It serves over 55,000 kids per year: 25,000 kids in crisis shelters, long-term residential programs, the Mother/Child Program and the Community Services Center. More than 31,000 kids are helped through the Street Outreach program, in which volunteers go out and search for kids in need on the street.

I have seen these programs in action myself. I have been to seven different shelters in three different countries and have spent a summer working at a shelter in Anchorage, Alaska. Whether it is Managua, Nicaragua, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Newark or right here in Washington, the needs of our youth are critical. How can this be allowed to continue? How do we not see this issue and react more aggressively? Children across the globe are being denied a childhood, through no fault of their own, and most of us do nothing.

At Georgetown, there is such high potential for greatness and achievement. It wouldn’t be false to say we go to school with some of the greatest minds of the future. I believe that many kids living on the streets would have that same potential, if they were only given the safety and security needed to get back on their feet. And helping out is simple — raising funds for Covenant House helps homeless youth. We all can offer them a second chance, and reach out our hands to pull them up into a new life.

Liam Ryan is a junior in the College.

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