SSWA hosts inaugural One Night event

The Student Social Work Association (SSWA) organized its first One Night event to raise awareness of homelessness in Madison County.

The Student Social Work Association hosted its first One Night event to raise awareness of homelessness in Madison County. Signs (pictured) were displayed around the Stratton Quadrangle, with each of the 581 signs representing a homeless individual in the county. Photo by Kari Williams

Senior social work majors Heather Perez and Sarah Hulbert were the lead organizers for the event, which took place Saturday at the Stratton Quadrangle and featured a cardboard box competition, music, games and guest speakers.

“A lot of people don’t really think [homelessness is] an issue here in the county, here in Edwardsville, and it really is,” Hulbert said. “It’s a big problem. There are a lot of homeless families in the area.”

Perez said they had seen “traditional sleep outs” to raise awareness, but chose to make their event during the day to reach out to the community.

“Traditionally, people do sleep outs where they come out and they sleep out in their cardboard boxes that they create like a structure,” Perez said, “but we were kind of opening it up to the community and children so we didn’t want them staying out all night. So instead we said, ‘OK, we’ll have the awareness going on with the speakers and things like that and [building] the cardboard [box homes] could be like a competition.’”

Teams for the cardboard box competition were organized prior to the event. Proceeds were raised through $10 per member donations from the teams, which competed to create houses using only cardboard boxes and duct tape.

David Harrison, coordinator of the Continuum of Care for Madison County, said the competition is “symbolic.”

“We don’t see the cardboard structures in Madison County like they do in downtown St. Louis, but we still have people on the street, sleeping under a bridge or in a car, families living in their vehicles,” Harrison said.

Perez said the issue cannot be addressed if people are not aware of it, so the event can help agencies get their names out to the public.

“Then just that total awareness can then make changes,” Perez said.

The Continuum of Care for Madison County partnered with SSWA for the event. Harrison said any time they can spread knowledge about homelessness in the community is “a good thing.”

“Getting this [college student] age group involved, the word will spread and hopefully the issue will come more to the forefront and we can solve this social problem,” Harrison said.

The Good Samaritan House and the Madison County Continuum of Care will benefit from donations contributed during the event.

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