Sleep Out raises homeless awareness


A group of about 25 UVM students pitched their tents and laid down their sleeping bags outside the Davis Center, gathering in support for the homeless community in Burlington.

On March 25, the Student Sleep Out group slept through 21-degree weather at the lowest point in the night, according to the National Weather Service.

In 2014, 1,556 Vermonters, including 371 children, were homeless, according to the state’s Point in Time Count, which measures how many people are experiencing homelessness in a certain period. That means that nearly one in four homeless people in Vermont are under the age of 18.

Spectrum, a youth and family services organization, holds Sleep Out fundraisers in Vermont each March.

This year, their executive Sleep Out, which invites more than 100 businesses and community leaders to spend a night outdoors, raised over $26,000 through donations, bake sales and silent auctions.

“Guys, it’s like below freezing,” a passing student shouted to group as they pitched their tents in the snow.

This much was true, but nonetheless students spent the night sharing why they were there, “playing games, eating pizza and drinking hot chocolate, said senior Haley Newman, the event’s organizer.

The Outing Club donated thermal sleeping bags and blankets for the event, but some participants did not use any of these supplies and instead faced the cold.

“Most of the homeless don’t have any form of shelter, so for one night, nor will we,” junior Sophie Robledo said.

When the sun rose around 7 a.m., students like sophomore Michaela Eckler reflected on their experience.

“For us, sleeping out is a choice, but for others, there’s no different option,” she said. “It’s a necessity.”

Saturday’s Sleep Out was the coldest one to date, according to Newman, and she was thrilled at the turnout, she said.

“This was the first one at UVM,” Newman said. “It was freezing, but we all made it out with a greater appreciation for the housing that we have.”