‘Where did you sleep last night?’

Desiree Bartoe

Habitat for Humanity raises awareness about homelessness

Freshman exploratory major Chelsea Goodwin builds a cardboard house in Risman Plaza. Members of Habitat for Humanity spent the night in these “houses” to bring awareness to homelessness in Portage county and to raise money for the Miller House in Kent. EL

Credit: Steve Schirra

Cardboard houses started popping up like a new development in Risman Plaza last night.

Alison Ramsay, junior deaf education major, frantically ripped apart cardboard boxes and strategically placed the pieces around a light pole for comfort. She then slit a large garbage bag up the middle and tied it around the pole for a rainproof roof. Tall cardboard walls were constructed to support the roof and to shield Ramsay from the cool October breeze.

“Yes, this is my home tonight,” she said.

Kent State Habitat for Humanity held its annual Sleep Out in Risman Plaza last night to raise awareness about homelessness in Portage County and throughout the world. The group advertised for the event with fliers asking students “Where did you sleep last night?”

“I didn’t think homelessness was in Portage County or in Kent,” said Chris Popadich, Late Night Christian Fellowship staff member and Sleep Out participant. “I thought it was only in bigger cities, but it is everywhere. It is just everywhere.”

According to figures from Habitat, 400 people in Portage County are considered homeless. There are 600,000 homeless in the United States and more than one million homeless in North America.

“A lot of people know homelessness exists, but they don’t think about it unless they see it,” said member Lauren LaPoint, senior advertising major. “This event raises awareness and gets students involved.”

Participants obtain either a flat donation or a pledge, a specific amount of money for every hour they sleep out.

Habitat members try to make the experience as real as it can possibly be.

“We try to refrain from using electronics,” said Angie Hackworth, co-president of Habitat. “You can bring a sleeping bag or blankets, but you are not suppose to bring comfort items, like an air mattress.”

Heather Daniel from the Miller Community House in Kent was the guest speaker. She spoke about her personal experiences with homelessness.

This year, the event was scheduled three weeks earlier than usual.

“It was really cold last year, and a lot of people didn’t make it through the night,” Hackworth said. “We thought if we moved the date up, it would be warmer and attract more participants.”

Although the Sleep Out is an event to raise awareness for homelessness, Habitat members also help build affordable housing for people within the community.

“It is about loving people,” Popadich said. “I want to do something about this problem. Tonight I inform and Saturday’s I do.”

Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Habitat volunteers help construct houses on two sites located in Kent and Atwater.

For more information, contact [email protected].

Contact social services reporter Desiree Bartoe at [email protected].