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Phi Beta Sigma Sleeps Out for the Homeless
April 27, 2009
Back row, from left : Rashaun Allen, Anthony Phipps, and Josh Cox; middle row: Barry Jackson and Elijahjuan McGill; in front, Christien Dimas, on sleeping bag. The fraternity brothers are sleeping out to call attention to homelessness in the Albany area. (Photo Mark Schmidt)
Rashaun Allen and the brothers of the Mu Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., gave up their warm beds and sleep out on Collins Circle on April 23-24 to draw attention to the problem of homelessness in the Albany area.
"Too many families are a few paychecks away from living in the street in the richest nation in the world," said Allen, a Finance/Management and English major from Brooklyn, N.Y., who graduates next month.
He and his fraternity share "a sense of urgency" about homelessness. St. Paul's Center of Rensselaer, one local homeless shelter, recently reported an increase in the number of single mothers and children using the 19-bed shelter. Some of the more affordable rental properties have been foreclosed on in the deepening recession, leaving families without a home.
Phi Beta Sigma has reached out to the Student Involvement office, UAlbany's student groups, and St. Paul's Center for the sleepout.
The fraternity has a strong community service focus. Anthony Phipps, a senior information studies major from Brooklyn, recently pulled together a team for the Relay For Life cancer research benefit. Barry Jackson, a junior information studies major from Ontario, N.Y. teamed up with Allen and fraternity brother Carlton Witherspoon to collect donations for the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault 5k race. They joined the race, finishing in the Top 10. The fraternity was also active in the Closer Look Program that brought more than 150 high school students of color to campus. The brothers of Phi Beta Sigma also hosted an Eat Healthy Super Bowl party, passing out free subs while talking about nutrition.
The sleepout began at 8:14 p.m. on April 23 with a forum in the lecture center. Why 8:14 and not 8 p.m.? Organizers said eight means evening and the number 14 is significant, as Phi Beta Sigma was founded in 1914. The program included talks by D. Ekow King, director of Multicultural Student Success, and David R. Rossetti, executive director of St. Paul's Center. At 10 p.m., volunteers moved on to Collins Circle, where they stayed until 5 a.m. Friday.
Allen wants to get the word out to student groups, administrators, faculty and staff to understand the problem of homelessness is at the University's doorstep. Another way to help is to donate time or money to St. Paul's Center, he said. "We believe this will be a great opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges that affect homeless people," he added.
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