Attention to tents
Student sleepout raises homelessness awareness, funding
This past Sunday and Monday, University students hosted Sleepout for the Homeless — an annual event where participants get a sampling of what it is like to sleep without the basic necessities they take for granted, such as a rooftop, running water and access to sanitary bathrooms.
The eighth annual incarnation of the event consisted of two nights in tents in the Amphitheater to foster awareness for homelessness and raise money for The Crossings — a mixed-income housing complex that provides both studio apartments and support services to the homeless and low-income individuals.
“[I hope] people don’t just take it as an event, but that they take it as something like ‘hey, this is an actual big issue in Charlottesville and we live here so let’s do something about it’,” fourth-year College student Liz Heiftez said. “That’s the big goal: awareness to the point where you do something about it.”
Eileen Cadel, a fourth-year Engineering student and chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, hosted the event.
“No matter where you are in Charlottesville, you see that there are people that are less fortunate than you are, whether you’re at Little John’s grabbing a sandwich or if you’re Downtown,” she said.
The event received sponsorship from the Hillel at the Brody Jewish Center, among others, and it coincided with a Jewish holiday called Sukkot. Cadel said this was planned because “it’s one of the pilgrimage holidays in the Torah when Jews travelled around the desert for 40 years. [Jews] were sleeping in tents for 40 years.”
Even though the Sleepout is coordinated by a Jewish organization, there were a wide range of activities. On Sunday, former Charlottesville mayor Dave Morris came to speak, followed by a presentation from The Crossing. There was salsa dancing, a performance by the New Dominions and a raffle with more than 30 prizes provided by local businesses.
In addition to funding from sponsors, the participants personally reached out to people to raise money.
“The funding is basically [from] contacting family and friends — writing them a nice letter explaining the situation, the cause, where everything is going to and getting them to give money to support the cause,” Heifetz said.
Despite various planning challenges, the Sleepout was and will continue to be a significant service event in the University community, Heifetz said. Hundreds of students have participated and raised more than $25,000 in the last eight years.