One Winter Night fights homelessness in community

For one night, public officials, church leaders, business people and University faculty will experience what more than 500 people in Champaign County experience every night.

At the event One Winter Night, participants will see what it is like to be homeless by staying outside in downtown Champaign on Friday night. They will be at the corner of Neil Street and Main Street from 5 p.m. to at least 9 p.m., but they will stay outside an extra hour for every $100 raised on their behalf.

C-U at Home, an organization dedicated to housing and supporting the most vulnerable homeless, is putting on the event to raise awareness about the issue and show the public the seriousness of the problem.

Some public figures attending the event include Champaign Mayor Don Gerard and the city’s designated police chief Anthony Cobb.

“The goal is to raise at least $1,000 for each public figure and have them spend the entire night shivering outside, realizing a bit of what it would be like to be homeless in Champaign in the winter,” said Jialin Zhang, member of C-U at Home and a sophomore in LAS.

Zhang said the organization is the local chapter of a national campaign called the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which “brings together change agents from across the country to find homes for 100,000 of the most vulnerable and long-term homeless individuals and families by July 2013.”

Melany Jackson, the project coordinator for the C-U at Home campaign, said the event will help bring in funds that the organization needs to put its plans into action.

“I really enjoyed helping people break the cycle of homelessness and helping alleviate the desperate needs of the homeless,” Jackson said. “However, getting non-profit status is very difficult since we have no staff and no financial support. The advantage is we are not being tied to other organizations’ rules and have more flexibility.”

There are various ways of for the public to donate, for instance, donate through credit card, via check or donate during the event.

Kristen Cantieri, freshman in Business, is one of the students from the University’s Stamp Scholars Program who is doing service for the project. She said she wants to remind people to compare their situation to that of homeless people.

“Think about how every single night of your life you are able to sleep in a house and think about those people who have to sleep outside in the street,” Cantieri said. “Those people are the same as us but just less fortunate. Even it’s only five dollars that you donate, that’s going to make a big impact.”