Faculty members to ‘sleep out’ to support homeless

Those attending the sleep out Thursday will sleep in a parking lot with a cardboard box and sleeping bag to emulate living in the street. (Annalise Pasztor | Daily Trojan)

There are over 3,000 homeless people between the ages of 18 and 24 in Los Angeles County this year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. On Thursday, a team of 11 USC executives will join nonprofit agency Covenant House to raise awareness on the conditions homeless youth face in Hollywood.

USC’s Chief Information Security Officer Gus Anagnos, who is on Covenant House California’s board of directors, will lead the group. The faculty members will join 29 other teams at the sleep-out, where 173 people are scheduled to attend, according to Anagnos.

From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., participants will sleep in a parking lot to the conditions affecting those living out on the street. Attendees will only have a cardboard box and a sleeping bag, Anagnos said.

“The idea [of the sleep-out] is no one is going to get any sleep,” Anagnos said. “That’s a real impactful moment, when you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, can you imagine what it’s like to live on the street?’”

The different groups will also be fundraising for Covenant House California by asking for donations. The money raised will provide beds for homeless young adults and other services. The agency hopes to raise $800,000 between both the Hollywood and Oakland sleep outs. Last year, it raised $614,000, according to Jillian Robinson, the Covenant House California development officer.

The USC team aims to contribute $25,000 toward that amount, according to Anagnos. Anagnos added that although the money is important, the primary reason for USC’s involvement is to raise awareness, amplify the voices of the homeless and encourage change.

“What I’m trying to accomplish here is not only bring attention to this problem and USC taking a front and center role, but to also give our youth …. more comfort,” Anagnos said.

Laura Ponder, a director of finance and accounting in the University’s comptroller office will participate in the sleep-out. She said that it hits home knowing that the affected homeless youth age group is similar in age to the USC student population.

The USC finance team became involved in homelessness initiatives this past year, Ponder said, but they’ve only recently begun to understand the magnitude of the city’s crisis. She also said now that they are aware of the information, they are doing all they can to help, such as participating in the sleep out.

“[We] hope to continue to do more,” Ponder said. “I would love to be involved next year and to continue to fundraise. I sleep out and fundraise amongst my friends as an act of love.”

Ponder is looking forward to the sleep out and hopes to raise $3,000 herself.

“I believe that no young person deserves to be homeless,” she said. “[Covenant House] welcomes each young person with absolute respect and unconditional love.”

The sleep-out will occur toward the end of USC’s student-organized Homelessness Awareness week to educate the campus community about homelessness and food insecurity.

“This is about USC taking part in something that it believes so much in,” Anagnos said. “[It’s about] bringing awareness to this problem, and the fact that we have a number of students who are homeless.”

USC wants more students to come forward and seek out help, according to Anagnos. He said students experiencing home insecurity should contact Brenda Wiewel, the director of the USC Initiative to Eliminate Homelessness. Wiewel said that students should also go to their counselor or advisor to acess emergency funds available for students in need, and recommended the Student Crisis and Advocacy Office.

“We’ve been really focused on how we can help make sure there are resources for our own students,” Wiewel said. “We want to create a comprehensive range of options.”