Inside Rensselaer
Fraternity Members’ Efforts Call Attention to Homelessness
* Fraternity Members’ Efforts Call Attention to Homelessness Fraternity Members’ Efforts Call Attention to Homelessness
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity members Paul “Ricky” Philatre, Matthew Dixon, and Isaac Rodriguez organized the sleepout to collect donations for Joseph’s House and Shelter in downtown Troy.
Despite the mid-April cold and windy conditions, three Rensselaer fraternity members left the comfort and warmth of their dorms to participate in the annual “Sleep Out for the Homeless” fundraiser sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Their goal was to raise funds and awareness of the homeless in the City of Troy community and beyond.

For nearly 20 years, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which has just three current members, has organized the annual event to collect monetary donations for Joseph’s House and Shelter located in downtown Troy. The three students, who are also members of the varsity basketball team, are Paul “Ricky” Philatre, Matthew Dixon, a sophomore and treasurer of the fraternity, and Isaac Rodriguez, a junior.

From April 25-27, the Rensselaer Union front lawn served as the students’ temporary shelter. The students slept on pieces of cardboard and lived in a makeshift shelter using materials that were donated by various individuals. Throughout the 77-hour event, the students could only accept offers of food, beverages, and other items from members of the Rensselaer campus and local community. The students attended all their classes, but they could not return to their dorm rooms until the end of the event.

“This event grew out of a need to relate to the struggles that many homeless people have to deal with on a daily basis due to lack of shelter or little or no food,” said Philatre, a senior management major and chapter president. “This is our way of giving back to the local community, and there is a sense of accomplishment in knowing that the funds we raise will help to improve the lives of those in need.”

Each year, more than three million people experience homelessness, including 1.3 million children, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. And according to national studies, even more Americans are at risk of homelessness. In New York state, at least 62,000 individuals were considered homeless in 2007, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ most recent statistics.

“This experience has taught me to truly appreciate what I have,” said Dixon, a civil engineering major.

People can be homeless for a variety of reasons. By planning this annual event, we hope that people will find ways to support the local community and those that are dealing with homelessness. A small act can go a long way.”

This year, the fraternity raised $1,250. All proceeds will benefit Joseph’s House, which takes in more than 1,000 homeless adults and families with children, according to the organization’s community liaison. The organization provides individuals with meals, medical care, access to personal items, laundry facilities, and other resources. In addition, advocates work with guests to identify housing and services based on their goals.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 10, May 28, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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