Communications Office: Stephen Mease
Champlain College students combined community awareness, fundraising and service this fall to help the homeless in Burlington. The 8th annual Tent City, on the front lawn of Perry Hall on South Willard Street, drew about 70 students and a handful of staff and faculty to sleep out in tents and experience soup-kitchen style meals.
The annual event, held Nov. 8-12, was part of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week sponsored by the Center for Service & Civic Engagement. Participants experienced some of the hardships those without shelter face and learned about the needs of the local homeless community while raising $900 for the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Burlington.
"I think this year went well because we were able to be out in the community more," said Hannah Andersen '14, a Social Work major who has helped to plan Tent City for the past three years. "We were able to not only raise money for COTS but we were able to volunteer at one of the shelters and at the Day station. The fundraising isn't what Tent City is all about, but it is fulfilling to help locals affected by homelessness or on the verge of becoming homeless," said Andersen.
The event, organized by members of a Tent City Planning Committee through the Center for Service & Civic Engagement (CSCE), is a solidarity event for Champlain College students to learn about this ever-increasing local and national plight. Each year, Tent City fulfills a portion of the College's LEAD community service requirements for first-year students who participate in one or multiple nights, but is open to the entire Champlain community.
Because the event took place over the weekend, requirements varied this year. This year, participants were encouraged to raise $10 individually for every night they slept out. In addition, there were evening and daily events offered that included guest speakers from local-nonprofits such as Spectrum Teen & Youth Center, movie screenings, cooking a community dinner, and more. The Tent City planning committee also incorporated additional community service projects, so students could see COTS, the all-service shelter that provides shelter, homelessness prevention, housing, and support programs in Burlington.
Along with sleeping on Perry lawn and attending events, participants were asked to give up all technology, shower in the gym locker rooms and use public resources such as Internet in the library. Each evening in the dining hall, they were provided with a typical "soup kitchen" dinner menu, similar to those served in homeless shelters and food shelves.
"Since we changed the location this year to right in front of Perry Hall, we were able to talk to many more community members to let them know what was going on," said Andersen. Usually, the event takes place on Aiken Lawn, the school's center green that is out of street view. "It's not as much a simulation as it is a solidarity event to spread awareness," she said.
To learn more about COTS, visit www.cotsonline.org.
To explore Champlain's Center for Service & Civic Engagement volunteer and community opportunities, visit http://www.champlain.edu/Community-Service-and-Civic-Engagement-Program.html
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition. Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and is ranked in the top tier of 2014 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.