Last night, members of the Delta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity gathered together in Bosco Student Plaza to participate in the 19th annual Sleep Out for the Homeless event. Phi Beta Sigma is a historically African American fraternity in the greek community.
“For the event we ask people to bring canned goods to be donated to the Flint Hills Breadbasket and any jackets or coats to be donated to the homeless shelter here in Manhattan,” Raphael Rico, junior in psychology and chair for social action for Phi Beta Sigma, said. “After participating in the event for the four years I have been a member, we donated dozens of jackets and over a 100 pounds of goods to help support those in need.”
Rico said that compared to past years, people can’t stand the cold temperatures and begin to bail out of the situation.
“In [the past] we have had over 75 people come support at the start of the event,” Rico said. “As the night goes along and gets colder people start to dwindle down.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2011, Riley County has the highest poverty rate in the state of Kansas with 23.6 percent compared to the state average of 12.6 percent. However, most students are unaware of the difficulties that members of their own community are experiencing.
“I think it’s a good thing to appreciate the homeless,” William Olds, freshman in architecture, said. “I’m not from here, but I think an event like this helps.”
Wilson Meeks, senior in architecture, has participated in this event since 2009.
“We’re going to be out here until six or seven tomorrow morning,” Meeks said. “It’s supposed to get down to the low twenties or high teens, but I feel like it was colder last year. There are a few people that brought space heaters.”
Despite the seriousness of origin of the event, Phi Beta Sigma brothers still have fun. They played music through loud speakers, are chili together and even constructed a fort out of boxes to sleep in.
“We’re here to raise awareness, but at the end of the day we love to have a good time,” Nick Wiggins, senior in communications studies and member of Phi Beta Sigma, said. “Our organization is all about showing people a good time. Although we’re here for a great purpose we also want people to have a good time while they’re with us.”
While the brothers have fun, Wiggins said they don’t want to forget the reason that they are there in the first place.
“You really learn that there are a lot people in the Manhattan area who aren’t privileged enough to have a roof over their heads and a meal every night,” Wiggins said. “We’re out here all night just to show appreciation to those people who are really struggling right now. It’s also an opportunity to raise money, canned goods and clothing for them.”
Wiggins further said how participating in the event before has changed his attitude towards the homeless.
“I try to stop and ask people that I cross daily how they’re doing,” Wiggins said. “If I see someone outside of campus and we bump into each other I say ‘Hi, how are you?’ I just really want to learn about who is in my community.”
Other fraternity brothers shared similar sentiments to Wiggins on the impact of the event.
“We’re not really homeless but we’re trying to show the K-State students that not everybody has the ability to stay warm and go home,” Eddie Gonzalez, junior in sociology and Spanish and second vice president of Phi Beta Sigma, said. “We pick the middle of November so that it’s actually cold and we raise awareness that way.”