Tonight, starting at 6 p.m., to call attention to issues of hunger and homelessness, students and other activists plan to hold the third-annual “A Bench is not a Bed Sleep-Out” just outside Baltimore City Hall at War Memorial Plaza.
It’s the third annual staging of an event which, last year, brought some unanticipated headlines – police threatened to arrest the 300 people who planned to sleep in the plaza as part of a nationwide event aimed at showing solidarity with those who experience homelessness.
“We allow 4,000 of our fellow Baltimore residents to be homeless every night but the city couldn’t allow a small group of us to be here in solidarity with them for one night,” organizer Lisa Klingenmaier said last year.
Organizers would like to try again this year, but are prepared if necessary to do what they did in 2011 – head over to McKeldin Square closer to the Inner Harbor to do their actual sleeping-out over there. (At the site of last year’s Occupy Baltimore encampment).
Capping what the Baltimore City Council designated as Health and Homelessness Week in Baltimore, the event this year will include representatives from Health Care for the Homeless, Maryland Hunger Solutions, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Project Plase, Unite Here Local 7 and TurnAround.
After a keynote address by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, there will be small group discussions, music from Brooks Long & the Mad Dog No Good and an open forum for visiting organizations. After the program, students will sleep outside in solidarity with those across Baltimore who lack stable housing. Dinner and breakfast will be served.
Donors and others supporting the event include Project Jump Start, The Women’s Law Student Association, Darroll Crib of Loving Arms, The Kutler Family Foundation, 2640 Space, JHU Kitchen, Food Not Bombs- Baltimore, as well as members of the student body and faculty at the University of Maryland.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week began in 1972 at Villanova University by a group of students who coordinated a week of activities around issues of homelessness.The annual event is held the week before Thanksgiving and is jointly sponsored by the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness and the National Coalition for the Homeless.
The Baltimore-Area effort was organized in 2010 by students from Goucher, John Hopkins, Loyola, Morgan State, and The University of Maryland Baltimore. A sleep-out at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor called “A Bench is Not a Bed” was the main event.
For more information on tonight’s event: