Risman becomes habitat

Katie Alberti

Students brave cold, construct shanty town

Angie Hackworth, sophomore middle education major, sits in a huge box in Risman Plaza last night while Audra Jervey, sophomore architecture major, and Jessica Petrone, sophomore special education major, arrange boxes for their sleepout with other Habitat

Credit: Steve Schirra

Students camped out at Risman Plaza with garbage bag mattresses and cardboard houses to raise awareness about homelessness last night.

From 8 p.m. yesterday until 9 a.m. today, Habitat for Humanity, along with members of Circle K and The Dive, stayed outside to demonstrate the problem of homelessness throughout Ohio.

“Homelessness isn’t just an issue that affects adults,” said Eli Konwest, co-president of Habitat. “It affects children too. What would students do if their family was homeless? How would that affect their lives? Would they have the same opinion?”

Roughly 40 students gathered to speak out about the issue.

“Homelessness is a big problem that needs to be corrected,” said Meghan Johnson, secretary and head of fundraising for Habitat. “With students’ help, support and time, one day, it’ll be a lot better than it is today.”

Alex Creager, sophomore religious studies major, said the project was a great way to show what Habitat is doing for the community.

“We haven’t had a work site in a few weeks,” Creager said. “This gets people aware of homelessness and lets the group see what we’re raising money for. We’re seeing why building houses is so important.”

The sleepout included various activities throughout the night. A speaker from the Freedom House, a shelter for homeless veterans, attended the event and spoke with students about the issue.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 600,000 men, women and children are homeless every night in the United States.

In addition, a single person working for minimum wage in the United States would have to work approximately 87 hours a week to pay for a two-bedroom apartment with 30 percent of his or her income, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported.

Despite the public’s belief that homeless people do not work, Liz Roberts, affiliate liaison for Habitat, said they do.

“(There is a) misconception of homelessness,” Roberts said. “If you want to make everyone happy, you must understand that most people work, and most people think homeless people are lazy, but it’s not that at all.”

Through donations from family, friends and Kent residents, Habitat raised roughly $200 to $300 through its sleepout last year. The organization hopes to raise more this year through pledges and student passersby.

Although it might not sound appealing to spend a night outside in the cold, Konwest said it educates everyone about the issue.

“It’s important for students to go outside their normal lives like these students,” Konwest said. “It’s not the most comfortable thing sleeping outside, but it’s a good experience for them and the student body as well.”

Contact social service reporter Katie Alberti at [email protected].