Five members of the Lambda Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. spent 24 hours outside at the Scramble Light to understand some of what homeless people experience every day, using only a fire, tent and sleeping bags to help them stay warm through the night.
From 8 a.m. Oct. 30 to 8 a.m. Oct. 31, the Sigmas held their 41st annual “Sleepout for the Homeless” event, where they spent 24 hours at the Scramble Light, collecting donations for the Muncie Mission homeless shelter.
“It’s essentially just a homeless simulator, where we’re essentially putting ourselves in their shoes,” said senior fine arts major and chapter president Jaylyn Graham. “We stand outside the Scramble Light for 24 hours with signs, collecting monetary donations, perishables, gently-used clothing, toys, toiletries — anything that can be used to donate to the Muncie Mission.”
Graham said this year’s event saw the most success compared to the two previous events he had been part of, raising $1,600 this year — $100 more than the previous record.
“This is definitely the most successful one we’ve had,” Graham said. “We’ve received a lot of donations, clothing, toiletries — everything we were accepting, we received plenty of.”
Every year, Muncie Mission uses the donations brought by Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. to help serve people in the community. Bob Scott, Muncie Mission vice president of development, said the fraternity brought “a huge mix of things” that help the shelter.
“It’s a great relationship we have with them,” Scott said. “I believe we’ve been doing it for a number of years, and it is something we look forward to every year with their donations.”
With Thanksgiving approaching, Muncie Mission will provide a carry-out-style Thanksgiving dinner for everyone who won’t be able to have their own Thanksgiving dinner. Scott said Muncie Mission takes money and food donations that help make 1,000 dinners possible, but due to COVID-19, donations might be a little short.
“We do have a number of schools, and churches and businesses that will do food drives for us on our behalf,” Scott said. “I would say that we are a little anxious of how that will look like this year since there are fewer people out, fewer kids are in school and churches have a lot smaller attendance, so we really don’t know if those food drives are going to be the same like in the past or not.”
This year, along with the sleepout, Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. hosted a Halloween costume contest, which Graham said contributed to the event’s success because it was so close to Halloween. He thinks part of the success was also due to the Sigmas increasing promotions on social media.
Davonte Carson, senior accounting major and Phi Beta Sigma fraternity member, said this was his first year participating in the “Sleepout for the Homeless.” Carson was responsible for “getting people involved” with the event and taking over the microphone to encourage people around the Scramble Light to donate.
“We have a tent, we have a bunch of coats that we’re trying to put together just so that we have some type of warmth, but really, we’re out here just like how someone would be if they were in this position — just trying to bring that awareness,” Carson said.
The participating members of the “Sleepout for the Homeless” also had a fire that helped them stay warm as well as hot chocolate given to them by the Muncie Mission.
“It’s hard to go to sleep outside when it’s that cold, and then, when you do end up falling asleep, you somehow end up waking back up,” Graham said. “It’s just really hard to go to sleep outside, so imagine what the homeless have to go through every night.”
Carson said there were five Sigma members involved in this event throughout the night, with volunteers and some alumni returning to support as well.
In addition to alumni, businesses such as Jimmy John’s and Pizza King supported the event by dropping off food for the members, volunteers and participants in the costume contest.
The fraternity did not have to make many changes to the event due to COVID-19 restrictions, Graham said. Members and volunteers only had to wear gloves at all times. Graham also said the sleepout was “already a pretty COVID-friendly event,” with not much the fraternity could do to make it better.
Fraternity members dropped off all the donations collected to the Muncie Mission the morning of Nov. 4 and presented a novelty check of $1,600.
“Overall, this was just a great event,” Graham said. “It was truly humbling.”