Sleepout Creates Homelessness Awareness

Dan Coleman, who works full time at Somebody Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa, has lived in a motel for over six months. Coleman said of being homeless, ‘Some people are there because of circumstance. Anything could happen to anybody. Life is unpredictable.’
Unexpected accidents, childbirth, parental abuse, job loss and natural disasters are some of the unforeseen causes that can lead to homelessness. The students involved with Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at UC Irvine, which took place from Nov. 13 to 19, tried to evoke the Irvine community’s sympathy for those experiencing poverty.
Despite the seeming invisibility of homelessness in the Irvine community, Students for Homelessness Outreach Together, United Nations Children’s Fund, Circle K, CalPIRG, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and other volunteer-oriented groups on campus led various programs and events to convey that it is an issue.
Displays on the amount of food UCI wastes on Ring Road showed the rift between privileged and underprivileged people in Orange County, along with thought-provoking signs with messages like, ‘Missed class recently? Nearly 1,000,000,000 people entered the 21st century unable to read a book,’ brought student attention to the less privileged.
Volunteer groups raised money for the destitute poor. SHOUT earned approximately $100 selling breakfast on Ring Road. They plan on using their earnings to make and donate hygiene kits to local shelters.
UNICEF’s Hunger Banquet on Nov. 17 rationed food to certain attendees, giving them the experience of the famished in the face of gluttony.
The UCI Volunteer Center hosted a barbeque to raise money and give students the chance to find out about various volunteer groups on campus.
Statistics such as ‘The cost of eradicating poverty is 1 percent of global income’ were given to students by members of the UCI Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
Ten or 20 of the organization’s members also spent each night of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week sleeping between the Social Ecology buildings to gain personal experience on what it feels like to be homeless. Strewn cardboard boxes, newspapers and a few blankets demonstrated their poor attempt for calefaction without housing.
But the SHOUT Sleepout at the flagpoles on Nov. 17 brought out about 80 students. Before the students endured a 50-degree night, three guests spoke to the crowd.
Dwight Smith, head of the Santa Ana chapter of Catholic Worker spoke about causes of and possible ways to deal with homelessness in Orange County.
‘No progress is made on homelessness issues,’ Smith said, because ‘the homeless don’t vote.’ Claiming that homelessness is caused by a city’s inaction, Smith resolved that the best way to prevent homelessness is to make sure all children go to school.
Debbie Bianchi, the executive director of the Irvine Community Drug Prevention spoke on homelessness on a local and global level.
‘People are literally living pay check to pay check,’ Bianchi said. ‘If you have just one bad month, not a dime more to pay your bills