Second Annual Campus “Sleep Out” to Raise Awareness of Youth Homelessness

Julia Fishman

This event, organized by the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, also raises funds for River Haven, a youth shelter in Poughkeepsie.


UPDATE: Due to the forecast for Friday, November 2, this event will be held in the River View rooms in the Student Center.

October 30, 2018—Marist College students are holding a “sleep out” on the campus green to raise awareness of youth homelessness and to raise funds for River Haven, a local shelter for homeless teenagers run by Hudson River Housing.

Criminal Justice major Brandon Rawlins ’19 has helped to organize the event for the past two years. “Youth homelessness is a serious issue right here in Poughkeepsie,” he said. “We had such a good turnout last year that we really wanted to do this again. It’s an important experience for students. Speakers come to educate them about the problem of youth homelessness while they themselves are outside in the cold. The whole experience really helps to foster a sense of empathy.”

Youth comprise a third of the homeless population in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Although not usually closely associated with homelessness, this population is considered to be at a greater risk for homelessness than adults, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most youth identify family conflicts and abuses in the home as the primary reason they find themselves in unstable circumstances.

This overnight event will take place on Friday, November 2, on the campus green. Students will gather and spend the night outside. River Haven staff Andrea Garcia ‘17, case manager, and Alix Ciferri, assistant manager, will both speak as will Chris Canale, a formerly homeless man who now works for Hudson River Housing. The “sleep out” is organized by the College’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Criminal Justice Honor Society as a way to mark National Homeless Awareness Month.

“We recognize this simulation in no way replicates the seriousness of a real homeless situation, but the goal here is to highlight the problem of youth homelessness,” explains event organizer and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Dr. Frank Merenda. Although the number of homeless youth is difficult to quantify for methodological and definitional reasons, Merenda says one point remains clear, “Marist students who hope to pursue careers in criminal justice, social work, psychology or any of the social or behavioral sciences will be challenged with the realities that often lead to youth homelessness,  involvement in these types of community orientated events can help better prepare them to meet those challenges and to  provide the right kind of support.”

Students who participate will make donations to River Haven, a project of the Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit, Hudson River Housing. River Haven is a safe, voluntary, temporary housing program designed to address the immediate needs of runaway, homeless and other at-risk youth.

Anyone who wishes to support this effort can donate by clicking here.

This event is co-sponsored by the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Criminal Justice Honor Society, and the Student Activities Office.


About River Haven

River Haven, a project of Hudson River Housing, provides emergency shelter, crisis intervention, basic necessities, family mediation, supportive counseling, case management, referral and advocacy for education, medical, legal, mental health and substance abuse services. For youth in residence River Haven also provides positive youth development and community service activities, weekly topical groups, educational tutoring, transportation to school/program, and enrichment activities.

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