Pitching Tents, Pitching InGAMBIER, Ohio (September 13, 2006) Tents are springing up like mushrooms on the lawn beside the Church of the Holy Spirit, just off of Middle Path on Kenyon's historic South Campus. There was one small tent on Friday, September 8. A larger tent joined it on Saturday. By noon on Tuesday, there were eleven tents, and more keep coming.
No, it's not a new residence option. It's a statement by Kenyon students who want to draw attention to the often-invisible problem of homelessness in America. It began with Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, Class of 2008, who's majoring in American studies, focusing on social geography, the study of how people relate to the place where they live. Clark-Ginsberg decided to camp out for a month as a fundraiser for the Knox County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and has invited his fellow students to join him. They're collecting donations from friends, family, and local businesses for every day that they sleep outside.
Even the steady rain that followed the first sunny days doesn't dampen his enthusiasm. "I'm from Oregon, so I'm used to this," explains the Portland resident. "I hope it doesn't get too cold, but I have a lot of blankets. My situation pales in comparison to what millions of people face every day in this country. I have the choice of going inside for a shower, a hot meal, a change of clothes."
Clark-Ginsberg has received enthusiastic support on campus. Dean of Residential Life George Barbuto approved the project, and a number of student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, will be joining him for a night, a week, or more. Donations have already exceeded his expectations.
"I think it really is drawing attention to the issue. So far I've raised $1,137 in pledges. I was shooting for $720 (a dollar for every hour in the month)," Clark-Ginsberg says. "I really subscribe to the mantra that Kenyon is a community. But we're educating people here about problems in the wider community."
Going down to New Orleans three times to help with Katrina cleanup-during winter, spring, and summer breaks-made him realize that a big part of any problem is simply lack of awareness on the part of people who might be willing and able to help. "Projects like these create their own momentum. You get sucked in doing good things, and it feels good. I think it would be really cool if, by the end, the entire field were covered in tents."