By: Judah Stiefel  | 

Midnight Run Helps Clothe, Feed Homeless

YU students took to the streets on Monday, February 27 to deliver clothing to the homeless of New York City. The event was organized through Midnight Run, an organization which works to provide clothing, supplies, food, and social interaction to New York residents living on the streets.

Linda Stone, Director of Student Events on the Wilf Campus said of the run, “Events like Midnight Run have a special meaning to me; they highlight the best of what YU students embody– the acknowledgement that we are our brother’s keeper and that every gesture of compassion to another person, no matter how big or small, has meaning.” Ms. Stone was extremely instrumental in arranging each and every aspect of the event.

By distributing the clothing directly to the homeless, the students were given a platform to actually interact with each individual in need. Senior Yosie Friedman, head of the Tzedek Society, wrote: “We want to give in the material sense: we want to provide individuals with clothing and food that would help make their day to day experience a little more manageable. We also wanted to give in the emotional sense: in personally coming out to distribute the items that we collected, we hoped to show our neighbors on the street that we care about them.”

The clothing was raised by the YU Tzedek Society along with Stern’s iGive. Over one thousand items of men’s and women’s clothing were gathered and more than one hundred meals were prepared for distribution. A majority of the homeless who showed up were extremely grateful for the peanut butter, jelly, and fluff sandwiches given out, though a number of them seemed to be expecting ham and cheese.

One thing that was rather surprising to many of the student volunteers was the selectiveness displayed by many of the homeless who needed clothes. Sophomore Yoni Schwartz said, “It was interesting and eye opening to watch a person turn down a large sweater or a shirt because it wasn’t their style. It makes you realize that these really are people just like us who have found themselves in difficult situations.”

At seven o’clock, the clothing was loaded onto a large school bus by the Wilf volunteers. The bus then drove down to the Beren Campus to pick up the Beren Campus volunteers, a representative from Midnight Run who guided the trip, and the meals that were prepared. The bus made three stops. Crowds of homeless people waited eagerly at each one. Volunteers noted that one of the most striking elements of the run was the fact that each of the stops were in the chiquest parts of downtown Manhattan. At one stop on 46th street, a sparkling glass windowed Rolex store was directly across the street. It seemed to symbolize for the students the striking disparity of wealth that exists within society. At another stop, Madison Square Garden was lit up for the Knicks game. One volunteer said, “It made me think about the fact that there are homeless people everywhere in New York, and you just have to look to see them.”

In many ways, this is exactly what Midnight Run is meant to accomplish. Yosie Friedman, president of the Tzedek Society, remarked, “we hoped to deepen our personal sense of the hardships and struggles that homeless individuals face. For me, interacting with the individuals that we met changed the way that I relate to homelessness.  Now, the term ‘homelessness’ does not only evoke a picture of human beings living on the street.  Now, the term also stirs up a more visceral, emotional response.  It recalls that sense of yearning and anxiety that I sensed in the individuals who we served.”

A large portion of the clothing donated was made up of suits, dress pants, and dress shirts. While volunteers organized and labeled clothing for the run, many speculated that the homeless recipients of the clothing would be happy with the high quality of the available selection. However, to the surprise of the volunteers, a majority of those that came to receive clothing were much more interested in t-shirts and sweatpants. Sophomore Daniel Jerome Schwarz said, “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that warm and practical is more important than sharp and fashionable when you need to stay warm on a cold winter night.”

The items that were donated and distributed included socks, undergarments, t-shirts, sweatpants, jeans, sweatshirts, bedding, sleeping bags, winter hats, scarves, men’s and women’s shoes, belts, skirts, dresses, and toiletries. For next year, the volunteers learned that the most crucial items were socks, undergarments, toiletries, jeans, sweatshirts, and sweatpants. While the run happened on a rather warm night, the weather app predicted snowfall a week later. The clothing will hopefully prove useful for many of the homeless who may find themselves sleeping at night in the cold wet snow. The run was an extreme success, and students are excited to expand and improve the program for the coming year.