“Sleep Out” simulates the plight of the homeless

During Homelessness Awareness Week "Sleep Out‚" students get glimpse of what it's like to be without a roof; learn about real life issues of homelessness

Georgia (Oct 23, 2008) — More than 165 students got a glimpse of what it would be like not to have a roof for one night during a “Sleep Out” that culminated “Homelessness Awareness Week” activities at KSU October 13−18.

While most of the participants endured the cool temperatures and lack of amenities for shorter periods‚ a smaller group of about 30 stuck it out for the entire 42−hour period‚ braving even the rainy conditions of Friday night.

“This was a real−life experience for students‚ but not real as far as what it is like for millions of people around the world who have no home and are forced to ‘sleep out’‚” said Lana Wachniak‚ associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sceinces who helped organize the event.

Sociology major Natasha Harris‚ a senior‚ had the best intentions of sleeping out on Friday‚ but in the end‚ the rainy weather and spiders got the best of her.

“I tried to stay til 8 a.m.‚ but I just couldn’t do it‚” Harris said. “I left around 3 a.m. because I could not get to sleep. I was taking cat naps‚ maybe for about 15 minutes at a time‚ and then I’d wake up. When a spider crawled into my box‚ that’s when I decided to leave.”

Still‚ Harris says‚ the experience motivated her to volunteer with Hosea Feed the Hungry‚ an Atlanta−based food bank and service organization. Also‚ the sleep out has made her value her own home even more.

“I know there are people out that are in need of help from people who are understanding and compassionate‚” she said.

Harris’ outcome reflects what organizers envisioned for the week’s activities‚ which were patterned after similar events staged on college campuses around the country since 1972 when the National Coalition for the Homeless co−sponsored a successful one at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Joining in planning the week’s activities were Janese Thompson‚ administrative coordinator for the Adult Learners Program; Robin Crawford‚ sociology instructor; and Rian Satterwhite‚ assistant director‚ in the Center for Student Leadership and Sgt. Bernadette Haynes of Public Safety.

“Our intent was to enhance civic engagement through education‚” Wachniak said. “The academic component included presentations ranging from a big picture view of the issues to street level engagement. Collaborative learning took place as students discussed their reactions to new ways of seeing this often stigmatized and diverse group of people who are homeless.”

Throughout the week‚ which also included a student poster display and videos on global hunger and homelessness‚ students heard from representatives of 20 agencies and organizations that work with metro Atlanta’s hungry and homeless populations.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu