On Veterans Day, Experience the Life of Homeless Vets at Camp Out on RIC’s Quad

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – On Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, former homeless Veteran Michael
Galipeau will lead Camp Out on the Quad at Rhode Island College to raise awareness
of the issue of homelessness. From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., members of Rhode Island’s
homeless community will camp out with RIC students so that students can experience
what it is like to be homeless. The event is sponsored by two student clubs: the
Bachelor of Social Work Organization (BSWO) and the Student Veterans Organization
(SVO). Galipeau is a social work major and vice president of the BSWO.
Structured as an immersive experience, sleeping gear will be arranged outside, where
students must deal with the harshness of the cold. Homeless street performers will
provide music and spoken word; a supper of canned food, typical of what one would
find at a soup kitchen, will be distributed; trainings in CPR, first aid, cold
weather safety and fire safety will be taught; and army physical fitness training
will be given, along with speeches by representatives of the BSWO and the SVO.
For two semesters, Galipeau has been engaged in a social work field placement at the
Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, where he will continue to intern until he
graduates in May. «Too often we blame the victim,» he said. «People who see the
homeless on the street are concerned with the effect on their business and on their
safety, but what they’re not concerned about is why these people are there to begin
with.»
Galipeau cited a number of reasons why Veterans have particular vulnerabilities that
result in higher rates of homelessness: «Benefits through the VA for disability are
often too little to meet the income guidelines to buy a home in New England.
Moreover, the VA has strict quality-of-housing policies that require the home to be
move-in ready. That means that the typically more affordable HUD home, which is
purchased as-is, is not an option for VA homebuyers.»
Once they are homeless, Veterans usually opt out of staying in shelters, he said,
because of the overcrowded environments that trigger combat-related trauma. «The
atmosphere of a shelter is not trauma-informed,» Galipeau explained. «Shelters do
not provide the level of safety that particularly vulnerable Veterans require. Vets
with PTSD, who have triggers specific to crowded areas and loud noises, will often
forego an overcrowded homeless shelter to sleep on the street; but on the street
their mortality is much higher.»
«When your mental health is in crisis, your only thought is ‘I need to get away from
this situation because it’s not safe,'» he said. «Until you can create a safe
situation, traumatized Veterans are not going to go to a shelter.»
More funding is needed to help agencies serve the homeless, he said, «Currently,
none of Rhode Island’s shelters have available beds. You have to call every day just
to stay on the waiting list.»
«There’s also a need to educate the leaders of tomorrow around issues of
homelessness,» he said. «Our future leaders are RIC students, and this campus is the
platform from which the leaders of tomorrow are created.»
Galipeau encourages RIC students to come out to the Quad on Nov. 11 and «join in
helping our heroes to come home.»
Established in 1854, Rhode Island College serves approximately 9,000 undergraduate
and graduate students through its five schools: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences,
the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Social Work,
the School of Management and the School of Nursing. For more information, visit
www.ric.edu.