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Frigid Temps Drive Student-Initiated Outreach

by Nancy Solomon on 01/31/2019
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Nancy Solomon

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SLU junior Devonn Thomas was sitting on her couch in her apartment Tuesday afternoon, wondering how those who did not have homes and typically slept in the elements would survive the incoming polar vortex.


SLU students sort blankets as part of setting up an emergency shelter during Wednesday's frigid temperatures at Manresa Center.  Photo by Amelia Flood

As temperatures were forecast to plunge into the single digits, Thomas and other students, took action. They reached out to Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., vice president for diversity and community engagement, and Kent Porterfield, Ed.D., vice president for student development, to see if the SLU community could help.

“Two hours after thinking we needed to do something, we were putting people up at Il Monastero,” said Thomas, an African American studies major.

Eleven people spent Tuesday night in SLU’s emergency housing on cots borrowed from Simon Recreation Center, eating hot meals donated by Sodexo. About 25 people – mostly students, faculty and staff – stopped by Il Monastero with blankets, coats, scarfs and food. Some stayed longer to volunteer.

As temperatures got colder, SLU offered similar emergency housing at Manresa Center to about 36 guests on Wednesday night. Approximately 45 SLU volunteers turned up to help.

“It has been a community effort with several students, faculty and staff helping in a variety of ways,” Porterfield said. “Our students asked Dr. Smith and me for the University’s help in arranging emergency shelter and we worked with them to develop and implement a plan quickly, with details falling into place early Tuesday evening.”