Pre-med students sleep out in the cold to benefit homeless

By By Patrick Muir

By Patrick Muir

About a dozen students from the pre-med chapter of the American Medical Student Association slept outside the Park Building Thursday night participating in the third annual Cure For the Cold, an event that helps raise donations for and awareness of the homeless.

This year was the coldest night in the event’s history with temperatures reaching as low as 17 degrees. Marie Clougherty, a senior pre-med student, led this year’s effort, and also serves as the vice president of the AMSA chapter.

“I decided to lead Cure For the Cold this year because I feel a strong connection with the homeless community of Salt Lake,” she said.

Clougherty, like other AMSA members, is a frequent volunteer at the Open Door Clinic for Homeless Teenagers.

“I have known many of the kids who come to the clinic since my first night behind the front desk and feel connected to their lives. These young people, along with the rest of the homeless community, are often denied basic human dignity that we take for granted every day,” she said.

Mayor Rocky Anderson addressed the AMSA in a meeting held Thursday afternoon outside the Park Building.

“In Utah about 4,000 people are homeless every night,” Anderson said.

“What you are doing is absolutely inspirational. It’s great to see more and more young people that are stepping up on social issues.”

Since 1991 there has been an 18 percent increase in homelessness in Salt Lake City. The percentage of homeless people in Salt Lake City is divided among 57 percent of single men, 9 percent of single women, 16 percent of adult families, and 21 percent of children.

In order to help lower these numbers, Andy Davies started The Cure For Cold two years ago.

Davies, who has graduated, wanted to do something with the AMSA club to help the Salt Lake homeless community. Davies came up with a stunt that he felt would get a lot of publicity.

“Last year we raised $3,200, almost 1 ton of food, and more than 100 boxes of clothing, blankets and winter wear. This year we hope to match and exceed these donations,” Clougherty said.

Pre-med AMSA members have spent many weekends leading up to the event tabling at local malls, stores and cafs in an effort to reach many people at a time and still maintain an individual connection with potential donors. One such member, biology major Billie Bixby, stayed up until 3 a.m. one Friday night, and made cookies and hot chocolate to hand out to people to reward them for donating or just for listening.

Another member, Simon Lee, a pre-med student, sat at a Beans and Brews coffee shop for four hours with a jar and asked for small change or donations from customers.

Pamela Atkinson, a leading homeless activist in Salt Lake City, praised the AMSA for helping the homeless stay warm and alive this past winter.

“Nobody died last year from freezing to death. AMSA helped increase the awareness that helped accomplish that,” Atkinson said.

She spoke about the need for that awareness.

“We need to acknowledge homelessness does exist. These are people who are just like us.”

She shared her vision of what an individual difference can make.

“When you make a difference in someone’s life, you change something in your own,” Atkinson said.

Lee Carter, a representative from the Road Home, said, “To take care of the homeless it takes the community.”

The Road Home is a homeless shelter that houses about 300 single men, 75 single women and 31 families with children every night. Carter said the majority of donations come from individuals and not from large truckloads.

Clougherty closed her speech with a quote from renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead that helped her throughout the many stages leading up to the event.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Cure For The Cold is accepting donations until noon today at the Park building located in Presidents’ Circle. They are accepting food, clothing and money. As added incentives for any coat donations, a 15 percent discount will be given to the Sports Den in Foothill Village. Also, any monetary donations more than $25 will buy a raffle ticket for a pair of Brighton lift ticket passes.

All donations will be allocated to four major homeless support organizations in the Salt Lake area. The Fourth Street Clinic will receive all monetary donations, the Utah Food Bank will receive all food donations and any clothing or other donations will be divided between The Road Home and the Salt Lake Rescue Mission.

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