It is a familiar sight in many cities around the world: people building shelters out of cardboard for their families to spend the chilly night in. Some family members are elderly, some are taking care of infants and others have serious injuries and disabilities.
Such a scene was recreated in “Night without a Home,” an all-night simulation event organized by the Civic and Community Engagement Center (CCEC) at Ramapo in the Alumni Lounges two Saturdays ago, as part of the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week on campus.
The disabilities were fake, the babies were just packs of flour and the students were inside, but the goal was to experience life on the streets for one night.
The main objective of the event was “getting students to realize that we are very privileged going to college,” said Amira Rachouh, a student coordinator at the CCEC. “If we increase awareness, hopefully, we will increase community service and giving back, not only in this area, but hopefully internationally and nationally.”
At the beginning of the evening the participants were split into four families whose members had to work together to help each other.
Throughout the event, students participated in various activities, games and icebreakers to learn about different circumstances and stereotypes surrounding homelessness.
“There is kind of a stigma, that if you are homeless, you were an addict or you messed up, and in some way you deserve to be homeless,” said Rachouch. “Sometimes the economy crashes, you don’t really have any savings, you end up on the streets. Sometimes you are an addict, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you deserve to be homeless.”
“Night without a Home” is an annual event at Ramapo that is usually held in the spring, so students can camp outside. This year the CCEC decided to move the event to make it a part of the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
“We are aware that camping inside is not the best,” said Rachouch. “We’re planning on cranking up the AC, making it as much a simulation as possible. We’re going to try our best to help them understand that.”
In addition to “Night without a Home,” the CCEC hosted various events in conjunction with Hunger Awareness Week, including a presentation about workers in the food industry and the Oxfam Hunger Banquet.
“Things like this, staying aware really helps out,” said Sarah Bate, a first-year student and member of Ramapo’s Leaders in Service. “This would be a cool experience for me and I’ll be more aware now and help other organizations raise awareness.”
Matthew Esparza, also a first-year student agreed that awareness is a key step in solving the homelessness problem: “I think more people have to care, aside from people taking action and opening up homes for the homeless. Before that, people have to care, there has to be an advance.”