“I spent 12 hours at the Solidarity Sleep out. I really didn’t think it was going to be that hard, but I was proven wrong,” explained Vanguard student Taylor Hallahan. “It was so cold and I was shivering all night even with my five layers of clothing on. It really opened my eyes to everything that people endure while being homeless.”
“While I was sleeping out, my back hurt really bad and I kept waking up all night long because I was not comfortable,” Michaela Ammon said. “It was kind of scary. I kept thinking of all the possibilities that could happen, even though we were blessed with campus safety keeping an eye out. The sleep out made homelessness more realistic: the dangers, the hardships, the fear, the ambiguity of where the next meal will be or where you will end up.”
Around 45 Vanguard students from the Live2free club and the Family Violence Class participated in a Solidarity Sleep Out recently. They slept on the campus lawn and were responsible for asking the community for food for two meals to feed those involved. The students found that asking for food was very humbling, and they were turned away by many restaurants.
“The purpose is to bring more attention to homeless youth in our own backyard,” explained Dr. Sandra Morgan, Director of Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University. “Most people do not realize that every school district has a homeless student liaison. There are 27 school districts in Orange County. The last homeless student count I received was over 30,000 students.”
Dr. Morgan teaches the Family Violence class and is the Faculty Advisor of the Live2free club, a student outreach organization. This is the fourth year of the
Solidarity Sleep Out. Dr. Morgan explained that the Orange County Department of Education’s definition of a homeless student is someone “who does not have stable housing.”
“Many homeless families stay in motels,” Dr. Morgan explained. “Sometimes parents send adolescents outside temporarily when putting younger children to sleep. They then sit on the steps doing their homework, where someone might encourage them to come into their room to do their homework. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to being recruited by sex traffickers this way.”
“Also, many students couch surf or sleep in their cars,” Dr. Morgan said. “One of our own students (referred to as M.) shared his story of homelessness, which also included family violence. Students saw the power of God to change lives because they heard how one of their own was homeless until someone at Vanguard came alongside him and supported him. It was especially moving.”
“When M. shared his story, I was in complete shock,” Erin Dallenbach said. “After knowing him for a year and a half, I would have never guessed that he had such a heartbreaking story. He is such a beautiful soul, and I had no idea he was once homeless, without any support from his family. Hearing his testimony was confirmation from God that this Sleep Out is so crucial for us to continue raising awareness. I am so thankful Vanguard has such a big heart for the homeless and I hope to continue to serve in anyway possible to help end this tragedy.”
Dr. Morgan said all the participants were impacted by the event.
“They learned compassion, which isn’t sympathy or just feeling sorry for someone; compassion is coming along side and helping,” she said. “The event increased awareness, and students learned about causes, prevention, resources, volunteering and other ways to help.”
For further information, go to vanguard.edu/gcwj.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]