Despite a windchill below 30 degrees, the Hunger Cleanup Coalition began their weekend last night with the Hunger Sleep-out, simulating the experience of a homeless life by camping out on the Diag. The Sleep-out kicked off the coalition’s weekend of community service, culminating on Sunday with the actual Hunger Cleanup – a day of assisting local shelters.
Comprised of over 20 student groups, the coalition seeks to unite the University community through community service, said Rachel Chapin, coordinator of the event. SNRE junior Han-Ching Lin, also a coordinator, said, “We felt like a lot of groups on campus had barriers (between them). What a better way to unite people than service. … Who doesn’t want to fight hunger?”
As residents of Ann Arbor, coalition participants see the effects of homelessness frequently. “Walking out of East Quad every day, I see a lot of homeless people and they all ask me for money, and I don’t really know what to do,” Chapin said, an RC sophomore. “It really bothers me, so maybe this will open up people’s eyes to what they can do.” Chapin also said that the diversity of participants adds a special element to the project.
“Sometimes you forget that you’re part of a larger community than just the University,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to work with other student groups for this cause.”
RC freshman Pam Baker said there needs to be more awareness on campus about these issues.
“I think that there are a multitude of factors that cause hunger and homelessness, so it’s important that, as students from diverse backgrounds, we consider all the different factors that lead to poverty and inequality so that we can consider more innovative solutions,” she said.
The coalition is expecting an estimated 100 people to work at various shelters Sunday, performing various hands-on services. “We’re doing work for them that they would otherwise have to pay for, and this way people can get a direct experience and see the face of (homelessness),” Chapin said.
Prior to the Sleep-out, the participants went through an educational activity to prepare them for Sunday’s events. They viewed a documentary, “Listen,” created by two RC students last year, which depicted the lives of homeless people in Ann Arbor. In order to better understand possible causes of homelessness, they also watched Michael Moore’s documentary, “Roger and Me,” the story of the General Motors layoffs in Flint.
The coalition held several events earlier this year, including the Hunger Banquet in February. The group also raised $1,000 through its meal sacrifice initiative, where students living in residence halls could forgo their meal and donate the proceeds.