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SleepOut for Social Justice Weekend

SleepOut for Social Justice WeekendGrab your sleeping bags and warm clothes for the 2nd Annual National SleepOut UST on Nov. 10-11. To promote awareness about homelessness in Houston, the students, faculty, staff and Houston community are invited to sleep outside at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10 to 7 a.m. on the Academic Mall, 3800 Montrose Blvd. The event is part of the University of St. Thomas’ 2nd Annual Social Justice Weekend, which works to encourage empathy, understanding and action among community members.

The weekend begins on Thursday with Chelsea Wade ’11, who will speak about “Homelessness Awareness,” SEARCH initiatives and volunteer opportunities at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 in the Old Bookstore, Crooker Center, 3909 Graustark. The event is free and open to the public.

Wade is a member of SEARCH Homeless Service, which works to engage, stabilize, educate, employ and house individuals and families who are homeless. The organization offers volunteer opportunities and programs for community members.

The SleepOut includes speakers, Noah Rattler, Joseph Benson and Larry Payne ’72, Alumnus of the Year for 2007, who will speak on issues of homelessness and inform participants about volunteer efforts.

Noah Rattler will share his experience of hiking from Houston to Los Angeles, for more than four months, to raise homelessness awareness for SEARCH. Rattler wanted some way to bring attention to the agency, which helps people living on the streets of Houston. Watch a video message from Rattler’s time at the Grand Canyon during his trip.

Last year, more than 50 people slept outside and were inspired by speakers and reflection. Dr. Livia Bornigia, assistant professor of communication, said through the SleepOut, participants surprised themselves and found new levels of understanding.

“It was very uncomfortable for all of us to try to sleep outside with the constant interruptions of loud noises, sirens, the cold and the hard, semi-wet ground,” Bornigia said. “We are fully aware this is nothing compared to what a homeless person goes through every day and night.”

Participants are encouraged to bring the bare minimum for the SleepOut event as the objective is to see what it is like to go without comfort. The Society strongly discourages tents, iPods and an abundance of snacks. The following items are recommended: sleeping bag, blanket, pillow and a notebook to document the experience.

University President Dr. Robert Ivany said feeling the chill of the evening and the hard ground will give our students an appreciation of the plight of the homeless.

“Such an awareness reinforces our responsibility to integrate the Church’s social teaching into our academic programs,” Ivany said. “The Catholic Conference of Bishops has a concise outline of our obligations in their publication, ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ which articulates seven major themes on social responsibility. I urge our community to read this important document at and commend all who participate in our Social Justice Weekend.”

The SleepOut will take place rain or shine and is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the Moran Center Garage for $2.

Groups participating in the Social Justice Weekend are the UST Social Justice Committee, the Psychology Club, Psi Chi, the Society of Macrina and Students Working Against Trafficking.

For more information on Social Justice Weekend, contact Bornigia at or 713-942-5907.