Hunger and Homelessness Week: Sleep Out in North Plaza

Students camp out at North Plaza as part of Hunger and Homelessness Action Week (photo by Heleena Winter)
Students camp out at North Plaza as part of Hunger and Homelessness Action Week (photo by Heleena Winter)

North Plaza became a camp out site Wednesday night for NOVA and GMU students. They spent the night on flattened cardboard boxes, huddled in their sleeping bags, under makeshift cardboard huts held together with duct tape.

 “The purpose was to raise awareness for the homeless and hunger victims,” said Mikael Manneklint, an international student from Sweden.

The sleepover was just one of many other events that were part of Hunger and Homelessness Action Week, sponsored by GMU Campus Ministry Association.

 “The whole week there were events to raise awareness and do practical things to help out. The event was to sleep outside and raise awareness,” said senior Heleena Winter, who participated in the sleep-out.

According to the association’s website, the purpose of Action Week is “to provide opportunities for every member of the GMU community to take action on behalf of the millions of people around the world and right here in Fairfax who go without the most basic necessities of human life.”

The students at the sleep-out were from different Christian ministries. Two were from Catholic Campus Ministries, and the rest, about 15  students, belonged to Crossroads, the college student ministry of Sovereign Grace Church in Fairfax.

The sleep-out allowed participants to actually spend a night as the homeless do: outside in extreme temperatures, on the hard pavement and without shelter.

“A lot of people were really curious about why we were out there and what we were doing,” Winter said. “It is really rough sleeping outside. The cold wakes you up, and you just don’t sleep well. We had luxury living because we had boxes and hot chocolate… but even with what we had it was still really rough.”

A group from the Christian campus ministry, InterVarsity, had eaten lunch with the homeless in DC earlier that day.

 “It was a really good follow-up to going down to DC. We sat and ate lunch with them and brought two bagged lunches each, and just sat with them and listened to their stories. Having had those conversations and then sleeping outside, it really helped me take what they had told us and then experience it to a small degree,” Winter said.

The students gathered in North Plaza around 9 p.m. and constructed cardboard shacks with duct tape to keep out the cold. Most got to sleep around 2 a.m.,then they packed up and left by 7 a.m.

“We were all cold and tired together,” Winter said. “I think it would have been really hard to do it by myself. We had some really good conversations about what does it take to get people off the street.”

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