About 20 students gathered on the Leavey Esplanade to brave the elements in a symbolic show of support for the District’s homeless population Friday night.
The “Solidarity Sleep Out” event, sponsored by Hoya Outreach Programs and Education and the Center for Social Justice, was the first of its kind at the university.
Solidarity Sleep Out is a nationwide event organized by Covenant House, an organization that provides services to homeless youth. This year, the event was held in 21 cities across the nation. Georgetown’s Solidarity Sleep Out was organized by freshman Gianna Maita, who interned at the Covenant House in New York over the summer. Maita said she was inspired by those experiences.
“I remember this summer I was in New York City and I walked to work relatively early,” she said. “I saw people sleeping on someone’s doorstep, about three people, and they had blankets and suitcases with them and everything, and they looked like they were probably three years older thanme.”
The night’s events including speakers, a cappella performances and a film screening aimed to educate college students about the United States’ homeless young adults. The night was one of the final events of HOPE’s Hunger and Homelessness Week, which features several other service events throughout the city and information sessions about social justice issues.
Carlette Mack and Larry Gold, Covenant House’s D.C. directors, spoke to student participants about the importance of acting in solidarity with the homeless. About two million American youth are homeless, according to Mack and Gold.
Although Maita was not sure how many homeless youths live in D.C., she said students may not realize the extent of the problem.
“It’s more than you might think,” she said.
After the presentations ended, five students slept outside on the Leavey Esplanade. However, at 2a.m., the group moved inside to the Leavey Program Room due to cold weather, according to participant David Lizza (COL ’15).
Participants had fundraised about $235 out of their $2,000 goal at press time and Maita hoped the donations to the Covenant House would inspire advocacy among students. She intends for Solidarity Sleep Out to become a recurring event on campus.
“The Covenant House’s goals are to raise money, to support homeless teens and to have the homeless teen’s peers get the experience of being homeless, so they become aware,” she said. “Once you have that awareness, you will make others aware too,” she said.
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