New club plans cardboard box camp-out

Featured Image: The 2018 VWU Shack-A-Thon event took place from Nov. 14 – 18 on Batten Lawn. VWU Flickr | Courtesy

Students Against Continued Homelessness (SACH) promotes awareness of local homelessness through outside-sleeping event.

VWU’s Students Against Continued Homelessness (SACH) held their first meeting on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in Blocker Auditorium. The host was SACH President and freshman Aiden Foley, who spoke on the origins of SACH and their mission of bringing awareness of homelessness to the VWU community. 

The meeting lasted approximately 30 minutes and there were around a dozen attendees for the event. Foley gave a presentation to explain the details of the homelessness cause and how he intends to bring awareness of homelessness to the community.

In the first part of his presentation, Foley explained how his interest began because of his involvement in other established organizations that worked to solve the problem and raise the awareness of homelessness. 

One group he mentioned was Students for 60,000, which began in the 1980s, and whose name refers to the number of homeless people in New York City at the time. Foley said that he met Students for 60,000 in New York City while in high school.

Throughout high school, Foley actively organized local trips to help the homeless in New York City. He spent many hours volunteering at the Long Island Harvest, which is the largest food bank in Long Island. In addition, Foley spent time volunteering at local food pantries. 

Foley also ran an event called the “Midnight Run,” in which his high school group would take food, bags of clothes and hygiene products to the homeless. Foley said that he was able to do this consistently throughout high school, only pausing for some months due to COVID-19.

Foley then recounted how his past actions directly led to his current VWU group, Students Against Continued Homelessness, that he is involved with today. He discussed how he wanted to bring the experience and lessons he learned in high school to his college experience. 

“I had a hand in organizing a lot of volunteering by working with our teachers, our advisors actually, and learned that you do what you have to do to make an event like this run. And I really just wanted to bring that wherever I went. So here we are,” Foley said.  

According to Foley, Shack-A-Thon works by simulating the “homeless experience” for college students by having them sleep outside, generally in cold conditions, in cardboard boxes.

Each participant is required to raise at least $100 to be given to local homeless shelters and food pantries. In 2018, a Shack-A-Thon was held for three days and two nights from Nov. 14 to Nov. 18 on Batten Lawn. Groups of VWU students participated in different events such as clothing and food drives and donation bins for books, shoes, clothes, hygiene products and canned goods were set up around campus and in the Community Service Office.

In his presentation, Foley also highlighted important statistics related to homelessness in the United States. Statistics that he presented showed that the homeless population that was “unsheltered” dipped between 2014 and 2017, but it has increased since with a current total of approximately 225,000 people in the United States from a low of 175,000 seven years ago. 

Foley noted this might be due to a difference in productivity versus wages since 1973 (74.4% vs. 9.2%) and that wages are not keeping up with rising economic demands and that more people are susceptible to being homeless now more than ever.

After background information on the homelessness cause, Foley explained the value of his current efforts to raise awareness and his intention to host a new Shack-A-Thon. 

“I think this event can be so valuable, because I think not only can we raise money, but what’s more lasting is the awareness when you have people that are not only aware of the fact that homelessness exist, but aware of the causes of it, and the fact that there are plausible solutions,” Foley said.

This sentiment was echoed by freshman and SACH Secretary Isaac Awogboro, who said that it is important for more people to hear about this. “Aiden did a great job explaining what SACH is,” Awogboro said.

Another SACH member and VWU student Brynn Dajc said they were in class with Foley, and they were inspired by seeing him take the initiative and so they joined the group. The meeting ended with conversations between the audience and SACH members about plans for a future VWU event.

By Kamal Womack