Students participate in H.O.P.E. Hall's "sleep-out" on the lawn outside Murchison residence hall. Participants slept overnight outside to raise awareness for homelessness. Photo by Anh-Viet Dinh.

Students participate in H.O.P.E. Hall’s “sleep-out” on the lawn outside Murchison residence hall. Participants slept overnight outside to raise awareness for homelessness. Photo by Anh-Viet Dinh.

As soon as she arrived at Trinity, junior Katie Ogawa hoped she could make a difference on campus and in the San Antonio community. By all accounts, she has done that and much more. Ogawa, the creator of the concept of H.O.P.E. Hall, which stands for Homelessness Outreach Pursuing Education, wanted to find a way to combine service, community and education, and she appreciates how H.O.P.E. Hall residents have taken initiative and made her vision a reality.

“It’s been incredible to see how the students have taken ownership, and I’ve been really inspired to hear the stories of our residents,” Ogawa said.

Sophomore Ben Whitehead was particularly encouraged by incoming first years’ reception to the idea of H.O.P.E. Hall.

“For me, it was really exciting to watch H.O.P.E. Hall develop and change because I was one of the students on the original planning and organizing committee. It was also exciting because we’d done some advertising at some of the admission office’s Saturday open house programs, and a couple of the people who came as first years to H.O.P.E. Hall were actually people we talked to at those tables,” Whitehead said.

According to Ogawa, if all 16 resident first years do come next year, H.O.P.E. Hall will have 59 total residents, which will fill up all of Murchison. Sophomore and H.O.P.E. Hall resident Lucas Poliak thinks the expansion of H.O.P.E. Hall could pose challenges to the community aspect of the hall.

“I feel like we’re never connected with [Murchison residents] anyway because there’s just the physical separation of Murch Lounge in between,” Poliak said.

Whitehead acknowledges and agrees with Poliak’s concern, but he believes the influx of students wanting to join H.O.P.E. Hall proves that Ogawa and the residents are doing things right.

“The separation with Murch Lounge is a potential challenge to the close-knit community feel, but mostly I’m excited about having so many people involved because I think it’s a really impressive thing that so many Trinity students want to dedicate a lot more time to service and really incorporate it into their life,” Whitehead said.

With so many new applications sent in for H.O.P.E. Hall next year, current residents and their future with the hall might be overlooked. However, Ogawa said that most of the current residents of the hall will be returning for another year.

“We have almost everyone staying. There’s a couple of people leaving for various reasons, but almost everyone is staying. That’s really encouraging, because I really hope to see that natural turnover and rise to leadership positions as people become more comfortable in the hall,” Ogawa said.

As the end of the academic year approaches, students are looking ahead to another year of living on H.O.P.E. Hall.

“If H.O.P.E. Hall is anything like this year, which I assume it will be, they can expect for it to be like a really close-knit community, a really nice group of friends and a bit of demand—but not to a point where it’s excessive, because everyone’s pretty understanding that everyone’s always busy here at Trinity,” said sophomore Mason Walker, a current resident of H.O.P.E. Hall.

One of Ogawa’s goals for next year is to hold at least one public event a month to raise awareness of H.O.P.E. Hall and its mission. On March 22, H.O.P.E. Hall hosted a sleep-out between Murchison residence hall and the parking lot near cardiac hill to raise awareness of the program’s community presence. There were discussions on homelessness and service, dinner and games. Ogawa said the event was successful, and she hopes to do it again next year.

“What we’re really looking to do next year is have one event, whether it be a service event or a social event or a speaker, every single month,” Ogawa said.

Residents are already busy brainstorming potential event ideas centered on the issue of homelessness that they could put on next year.

“I would like to try out something like what Mu Phi did with their Iron Chef event, but restrain it to where we could only use a certain kind of food or certain brands of food to represent what homeless people have to choose from,” Poliak said.

Along with externally publicizing H.O.P.E. Hall, residents want to build upon internal relationships with their hallmates.

“One of our main goals for H.O.P.E. Hall next year is to improve upon the community feel on H.O.P.E. Hall itself. We’re probably going to try to look to do some sort of a day retreat during the beginning of the semester for H.O.P.E. Hall members,” Whitehead said.

Service to the community is a major component of the H.O.P.E. Hall experience, and residents say that they get just as much out of volunteering as the people they are helping do.

“I think people can expect to really get a lot out of their service. I know as someone who was somewhat skeptical of that. When I joined, I doubted that at first, but I really have gotten a lot out of going to my service site,” Walker said.

Walker appreciated his fellow residents’ ability to adapt throughout H.O.P.E. Hall’s first year and recognize areas they could improve upon.

“Something that was really cool about H.O.P.E. Hall this year was we kind of improved as we went along. For example, we were having a meeting every week, and we realized that a lot of those meetings were just killing time because we were having too many, so we scaled them back,” Walker said.

Walker firmly believes that the success of H.O.P.E. Hall is due to the strong leadership of Ogawa and a dedicated group of residents willing to work with her.

“I think the first year has really gone exceptionally well, and I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true,” Walker said. “Especially how Katie hit the ground exceptionally organized. Pretty quickly we were going to our service places, we knew who to contact if we couldn’t go and by happy coincidence we had a super committed group of people this first year. We had both the right person leading (Katie) and the right people to help her put her plan into motion and give her new ideas.”

Although applications for H.O.P.E. Hall are no longer being accepted, students interested in the hall’s outreach programs can email hopehall@trinity.edu.