Mikayla Kieffer said the trick to staying warm throughout the night is a lot of blankets.
Kieffer, a sophomore at State College Area High School, along with 20 other members of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church Youth Group, 867 Grays Woods Blvd., spent Saturday night sleeping in tents and cardboard boxes to raise awareness of homelessness.
Kieffer said the youth group helped raise money with Housing Transitions, a non-profit group, located at 217 E. Nittany Ave., that offers housing services to Centre County residents.
“It would be really hard to be homeless and homelessness can happen to anyone,” Kieffer said. “We wanted to raise awareness, and it’s a really good experience.”
Elaine Scutti, youth minister at Good Shepherd, said she was a student in Chicago when she first experienced the struggles of homelessness through a program called “Sleep-out Saturday.”
When Scutti moved to the Centre County area three years ago, she continued her fight for awareness with the youth group at Good Shepherd.
“I think we’re making a big difference,” Scutti said. “The kids are excited, and it gives them a glimpse of homelessness.”
The youth group experienced the harsh realities of homelessness through day-in-the-life activities, where the youth group had to pick food from a dumpster, wash their hair in a sink or keep warm by a barrel fire, Scutti said.
Last year, the group was able to raise $1,200 for Bridge of Hope, an organization that assists local homeless families. This year, an anonymous donor gave more than $400, Scutti said.
“We want to continue this, and we hope to rally at the Bryce Jordan Center,” she said.
Susanna Paul, development and community relations coordinator for Housing Transitions, said homelessness remains a problem in State College because housing is unaffordable. Housing Transitions, a nonprofit corporation, offers a variety of housing services to Centre County residents in need, according to its website.
A low-income wage worker may spend more than 30 percent of their wages on housing, and it puts a strain on much of the other budget, she said.
Many times, the organization has to locate people outside of State College, where landlords may accept lower rent, she said. Sometimes people have to work more than 40 hours a week to afford housing, she said.
National Hunger and Homelessness week is Nov. 10 to 18, and there will be events on campus where students can get involved, Paul said.
“As much as I give, I get ten times back,” Paul said. “We are so inspired by their hard work and determination.”