UST Promotes Awareness for Homeless in Houston
The University of St. Thomas community and friends donned their sleeping bags, blankets and pillows for the third annual National Sleep Out Saturday held on Nov. 9 on the University campus. Over 70 students, faculty, guests and friends braved the chilly night sleeping outside to raise awareness about homelessness.
“This was the most successful year,” said Dr. Livia Bornigia, professor of communication and the event organizer. “We had so many homeless people come out this year and they were friends of friends who were here last year. It is really interesting because we are more committed than ever to wanting to see this event grow. We have a chance to test our own limits of compassion.”
The Sleep Out was co-sponsored by several UST clubs including Psi Chi, the psychology honor society, Students Working Against Trafficking, Tri Beta, the biology honor society and the Social Justice Committee. The event also included speakers and performances including Noah Rattler, a man who hiked from Houston to Los Angeles for four months to raise awareness about homelessness.
“We had some wonderful speakers from Star of Hope and other various grassroots organizations who talked about not only the realities and challenges of homelessness, but also about how the demographics of homelessness are changing,” Bornigia said. “It was really interesting to have on one side those who are working to bring awareness and eradicating homelessness and on the other side the face of homelessness.”
Jose Cortez, junior psychology student and president of Psi Chi, said the event, he co-sponsored and attended for the first time was not what he expected, but it was fun and eye-opening.
“I didn’t know there was actually going to be homeless people there,” Cortez said. “Our club advisor, Dr. Carl Scott, shared an anecdote and said that the homeless people who come to the event every year feel safer and can finally get a good night sleep when they come to UST because there are two Houston Police Department officers patrolling. That doesn’t happen out in the real world. Apart from lying out in the cold, hard ground, they also have to worry about their safety [and hope] that they’re not going to get run over or mugged. I thought that was interesting and something I never thought about before.”
Cortez also commented on the experience of sleeping outside on the ground, with club members including Psi Chi vice president Annette Ovalle.
“Annette and I were very shocked,” Cortez said. “Neither of us had slept on the ground before and there was grass, but it was so hard. I woke up every hour and could not get comfortable.”
Despite the lack of sleep, Cortez said the event was a good experience.
Looking forward to next year, both Cortez and Bornigia hope to gain more involvement from UST students and faculty. For more information on how to get involved, contact Dr. Carl Scott at 713-525-3182 or Dr. Bornigia at 713-525-5907.