Sleep-out sheds light on living without a home

By Erika Mahoney

May 2, 2013 Updated May 2, 2013 at 1:29 AM EDT

Town of Dickinson (WBNG Binghamton) Cardboard boxes, tents and tarps decorated the Broome Community College campus quad Wednesday night.

The goal was to experience what it feels like to be homeless.

Students and faculty spent the night in tents to try and understand some of the challenges of living without a home.

The event organizer and founder opted to sleep on a bench, knowing that a tent is often a luxury.

Wesley Warren, Chairman of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security at BCC, started the event four years ago after learning one of his students was homeless.

He hopes events like these diminish the stigma on homeless men and women.

"Right now, we are trying to spread some awareness about homelessness," Warren said. "There's this misconception that people who are homeless are substance abusers, they have alcohol problems, they're mentally ill. But the fact of the matter is there are several reasons: a loss of job, we had the flood of 2011, people were displaced. This is an issue that needs to be addressed."

Participants raised money for the Homeless Coalition of Broome County.

The coalition is partners with Fairview Recovery Services, YMCA, YWCA, Opportunities for Broome, Volunteers of America, the Rescue Mission and the Mental Health Association.