Students host slumber parties to raise money for local nonprofits

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Ithaca College students organized a sleep in to raise money for Second winda non-profit organization in Tompkins County that provides housing and services to the homeless.

The sleep in was held from 8:00 PM to 12:00 AM on December 2 at the Academic Quad. Seniors Olivia McKeon, Danielle Chassy and Wren Perchlik said they planned the fundraiser as part of the final project for their Civic Engagement Seminar course. The course requires students to choose a social problem to research for the semester and get involved with a local group working to address the problem. McKeon, Chassy and Perchlik said they chose to spend the semester doing research homelessness in the province because they saw it was common in the Ithaca area and wanted to investigate the problem further.

“I’ve seen homeless people in Ithaca and seen places and parks where people lived, so I knew it was a problem locally,” Perchlik said. “I thought maybe we could help something or spread awareness.”

The students sold snacks and drinks and collected donations for the benefit of Second Wind. About 10 students attended the sleep out, and more students stopped by to buy food or make a donation. McKeon said via email that the students raised more than $500 in donations from their family and friends and sales during the event.

Second Wind provides housing and services to the homeless to help them emerge from homelessness. The nonprofit has 18 men’s cottages in Newfield and is currently building four women’s units, with room for two children in each unit, in Dryden. Second Wind works with their residents to become independent and allows them to stay in their cottages as long as they feel comfortable.

According to Covenant housea non-profit organization that provides shelter and services to homeless youth during a typical period sleep in, participants sleep outside for a night to raise money and raise awareness for homelessness. The university’s Habitat for Humanity chapter held sleep in in the past, but McKeon said the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management had told students the event could not be held past midnight. While the students couldn’t actually sleep outside all night, they said they hoped to draw attention to local homelessness and encourage students to be part of the solution.

McKeon said via email that the group chose to support Second Wind because it is an organization specific to the Ithaca area and works to build relationships with the homeless population.

“Second Wind’s mission to bring not only homes but hope to the homeless community is truly inspiring,” McKeon said via email. “It was great to hear about the personal connections those at Second Wind are making with the homeless population. This level of compassion is something that drew us to the organization.

The group invited Second Wind community manager Mike Foster to speak at the sleep in. Foster shared his experience of being homeless motivated him to help others in similar situations.

“I was homeless for ten years — an alcohol and drug addict — before I got sober and started helping people who were experiencing that,” said Foster. “These are my people. [Second Wind residents] in my case are not customers, but my friends.”

Foster said homelessness is a problem in Ithaca, in part because state and local government solutions are ineffective. Foster quoted one report of the Hoorn research group, which was commissioned in the fall of 2021 by the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition to assess the state of housing and homelessness in the county. The report found that the county’s homelessness rate per 10,000 people is 12.6 people. This is the third highest percentage of neighboring and similar Cendless worrythe local organizations that organize housing, financing and support services for the homeless.

According to the report, the province does not have enough space in emergency shelters and public housing to house all of the province’s displaced people. The waiting list for public housing in the province is more than two years long. When data was collected in 2021, 29 beds were available and 103 people looking for emergency shelter. Most people in need of emergency shelter are temporarily placed in motel rooms with no support services. Many of the people temporarily housed in shelters and motels are likely to become homeless again.

Perchlik said he hoped the event would encourage students to learn more about the Ithaca community.

“I feel like a lot of students probably come and leave here without really knowing too much about local issues,” Perchilik said. “There’s also a lot I didn’t know, so…it’s good to raise awareness about the issues and ways students can be involved.”

Chassy said she hoped the event would help students see that they can make an impact on local homelessness.

“It’s a lot easier [to help] than you’d think,” Chassy said. “That doesn’t have to be the case [something] elaborate like, oh, I need to donate $3,000 to the homeless. You can do something as simple as going to the [Second Wind] website and find a time when they build a house and sign up to help with that.

Foster said he was grateful the students chose to support Second Wind and educate the college community about local homelessness. He said that while the group was small, they could make a big impact in reducing the stigma around homelessness and encouraging other students to give back to the local community.

“All it takes is a handful of people to raise awareness and let others know,” Foster said.

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