Last week, Magis service organization, a group that focuses on homelessness and education, held their annual Homelessness Understanding Week, several events geared toward raising awareness about the homeless population in L.A. The group aimed to start conversations around the topic. They fundraised for Safe Place for Youth and Blessed Sacrament Church, both organizations dedicated to homelessness that they work closely with throughout the year.
Their events included two documentary screenings, “On the Streets” and “Priced Out,” which focus on specific cases of homelessness and on rent increases respectively. Magis also held a t-shirt sale where shirts could be purchased with money, or traded for with other clothes. Both the money and the clothing will go directly towards benefitting those who are homeless. The group’s main event was a three-night sleep-out and reflection, which took place last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night on Regents Terrace.
The sleep-out and reflections attracted substantial attention from the LMU community. Several students from other on-campus organizations, including Belle’s Service Org, joined Magis to spend the night outside on cardboard, expanding their own perspectives on homelessness, according to Donovan Moini, a senior computer science major and member of Magis. Each night of the sleep-out had more than ten participants, according to Griffin Devine, a Magis member and junior psychology and economics double major.
The theme of the week was “how close,” according to Devine. Magis hoped to help LMU students understand just how near homelessness is, even though it is not largely visible in the LMU area, Moini claimed.
Moini participated in both Wednesday and Friday nights' sleep-outs. He said that Magis’ goal of Homelessness Understanding Week is to “advocate and provide educational events,” surrounding homelessness, as L.A. has a significant homeless population. Out of the 3.8 million people living in L.A., more than 50,000 of them are homeless, according to NPR.
Moini recognizes that those who participate in the sleep-outs can never fully experience what having no home is actually like, as they have the opportunity to return to their beds whenever they want. While actually feeling homeless is not the goal, Moini believes the sleep-outs widen understanding. “If it’s like this on a safe campus,” he said, “what is it like being on the actual streets?”
Moini acknowledged that Magis has received comments about how acting homeless could be insensitive. While aware of the controversy, Magis has continued to hold the event for the past five years. According to him, since the goal of the sleep-outs is to gain perspective, raise awareness and start conversationsーnot fully understand homelessnessーthe project is still an important one.
Claire Kosewic, a sophomore biology major, agrees. ”I think there’s so much value in putting yourself into someone else’s shoes,” she said. “[Homelessness] can be dangerous and confusing and hard and uncertain. There’s a certain degree to which I can’t experience that. But I can do this. I can be here. And I can make myself a little uncomfortable and try to bridge some of that gap.”
She said she is participating in the sleep-outs to “try to build some understanding of an experience that [she has] no capacity to understand.”
Moini, too, recognizes that he entered the week from a place of privilege. “I’ve never been homeless. I’ve been privileged enough and lucky enough to have a roof over my head,” he said. But by spending a few nights without a house or roof or even a tent, those participating will “get cold, get that morning dew when [they] wake up.” He continued, “The point of it is not to exactly simulate homelessness, but to give a little perspective.”
During the week, Magis raised $246 dollars to donate to Safe Place for Youth and Blessed Sacrament Church, according to Moini.