On Friday, November 14th, over 120 college students, and members of faith groups from all over Greater Hartford joined together at Journey Home’s 2nd annual Cardboard City Sleep Out to learn about and raise awareness for the issue of homelessness. With the help of community partners Foodshare, the Faces of Homelessness Speaker’s Bureau, Goodwin College’s MOVE/WISE program, Hartford Food System’s Grow Hartford youth program, Hall High School’s Global Problem Solving class, and First Congregational Church of Vernon, participants were able to hear first-hand from people who have experienced homelessness, watch a documentary about homelessness within Hartford, and hear from local experts on issues of food insecurity and justice. Participants then headed outside to spend a very chilly night sleeping in cardboard boxes on the University of Hartford Student Union lawn. With temperatures staying below freezing on one of the coldest evenings of the season so far, students got a very tangible taste of just a few of the discomforts that so many of our neighbors who do not have a home to go to each night are forced to face.

As a kickoff to National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week—held each year the week before Thanksgiving—the event was a great way to address an issue that is so often overlooked, or defined by socially accepted stereotypes. The night’s activities enabled participants to recognize and express gratitude for the gifts that they have in life, while also encouraging empathy for those who are less fortunate. Participants challenged assumptions and invited change by taking a stand, signing letters to their government representatives, and committing to getting involved by volunteering at soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries, as well as for the upcoming Greater Hartford 100 Day Rapid Results Campaign.

You can watch a short video made by participating students here!