Walking up the steps of Wilson Commons on Saturday evening, I found myself staring at a pair of L.L. Bean boots sticking out of the opening of a large box emblazoned with, “Homeless 4 Homeless.” Each year, Delta Upsilon puts on this philanthropic event during which they sit in their box in shifts over the course of 48 hours, attempting to raise awareness and money to donate to Habitat for Humanity.

Fighting homelessness, no doubt, is a worthy cause—homeless individuals face a barrage of health problems, from hunger and nutritional deficiencies to respiratory and infectious diseases, and are subject to intense stigmatization from homed-society. Homeless shelters are overcrowded, and often will ask residents to pay a daily fee to be allowed to stay. Mental health services for the homeless are abysmal, and are often the reason so many remain homeless.Where roughly 6 percent of the general population face mental illness, that number jumps to 20-25 percent for the homeless, the people who often have the lowest access to care.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homelessness, and I have learned absolutely none of this information from DU’s event in the four years I’ve been at the University to witness it.

For an event that claims to have the aim of raising awareness, Homeless 4 Homeless does the opposite. This event instead relies on the spectacle of an inaccurate and harmful stereotype of what it is to be homeless, all the while trivializing that same issue. To sit on the steps of the student union of your private university in a box, claiming to be “going homeless for homeless” in short shifts is at best not providing any real lens through which the brothers, or the student body, may understand homelessness and at worst offensive and harmful to members of our community. They are entirely sure of when they’ll be able to go inside to a warm, dry bed, and when they’ll have their next meal. They retain access to UHS and UCC, and those who walk by regularly stop and speak to them or bring them food and drink.

The boxes are placed in a highly visible spot for the purpose of using that spectacle to attract attention. However, the individuals responsible for this event seem to have not thought through the placement’s impact on students, faculty, or staff who may have experienced or who are currently experiencing homelessness. In choosing the steps of Wilson Commons for the ostentatious display of privilege that is Homeless 4 Homeless, these members of our community are forced to walk past a degrading caricature of their real, lived experiences.

Homelessness is not sitting in a box for three hours or more often than not, sitting in a box at all. Homelessness can come in the form of living in a motel, a car, or a shelter—homeless individuals can be students, veterans, people working multiple jobs or those escaping abusive households. Combating homelessness means treating the homeless with respect and dignity, and DU’s event does not even approach that standard.

Rochester has a real homeless population and a large number of people who’ve dedicated their lives to helping that population. If Delta Upsilon’s aim is to raise awareness and to make a difference in their community, it should consider hosting a panel of those who are or who have been homeless and those who work to end homelessness in order to actually educate the University community in a meaningful way.

Delta Upsilon should consider spending some of the 48 hours that it currently uses to sit on the steps of Wilson Commons in boxes to instead volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or one of the many organizations in Rochester that provide services for the homeless—and organizing the University community to volunteer as well.

Going forward, it is my hope that Delta Upsilon considers the real, harmful impacts of what I’m sure is a well-intentioned event, and chooses to explore other avenues to achieve their goals of education and awareness. Here’s to hoping that take-two actually respects those individuals they’re claiming to work for.



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