Genesee Community College Students Experience Homelessness for One Night

Batavia, New York —It was almost like camping, except there was no campfire or singing, no S’mores or ghost stories. And no tents. On May 4 thirteen students and three advisors from Genesee Community College became homeless for one night. The event, sponsored by the College’s Respect Campaign and College Village, raised awareness about homelessness and contributed as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

That evening, students dragged cardboard boxes onto the lawn by the new student union. They brought only what essentials could fit in their normal school backpacks, wiggled into their makeshift shelters, and settled in for the night.

“Nine hours seemed like an eternity for me,” said Tom Maniace, an occupational therapy major and Resident Assistant for College Village. “Maneuvering myself in the box and trying to stay warm in 40 degree weather makes me realize what I have.”

Students bundled up in winter coats and stocking caps read and played cards by flashlight. As the evening wore on, they retreated into their boxes, pulling blankets tight around their heads. Saturday morning they woke stiff and cold, and some participants found that their cardboard shelters had collapsed on them during the night.

“It was a very interesting experience. It made me think of what homeless life is like, and how bad it really is,” said Tiffany Ralston, an education major. “We were lucky though - we had access to a bathroom!”

Through sponsorship pledges the students raised $343.00 for the Salvation Army. They also gained a true appreciation of the hardships homeless people face every day. “Being homeless for a night made me realize that while I had a choice to participate, homeless people don’t get that choice,” Maniace said.

For more information contact Ellen Brokaw, Assistant Director for College Village at (585) 343-0163 or Joanna Barefoot, Director of Student Activities at (585) 343-0055 x6513. 

Editor’s Note: A photograph of students taking part in the Homeless for One Night event is available by going to: