Hillary Huber, Staff Writer

With cardboard boxes, a deck of cards and a bag of popcorn, students headed for the North Plaza for what would be a night’s worth of a glimpse of homelessness.

In recognition of Hunger and Homelessness Action Week, students participated in a sleep-out to see the homeless experience on a nightly basis.

Despite the rain, students slept outside on Thursday night from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

Ben Buss, the Lutheran Campus minister, brought the event to campus two years ago.

At the beginning of the night, he led a group discussion about problems that the homeless face and what the sleep-out could teach students.

“This is just a glimpse into the lives of those living on the streets.
It’s not a full picture because, psychologically, students know they have a warm bed waiting for them,” said Buss.

“They know they will be eating tomorrow and they do not have to think about where they are getting their next meal, or if there will be one at all.”

The group discussed the tragedies of homelessness and talked about what they could do to alleviate the problem. Students focused on the many mental illnesses that some homeless people suffer from.

Buss proposed the idea that perhaps homelessness has the potential to cause mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression, rather than mental illness causing or increasing the likelihood of homelessness.

Carly Moreira, a freshman art major, said the event was personal to her, having suffered from a mental illness herself, running away as a teenager and experiencing the uncertainty of food and shelter.

She said the sleep-out is a way for her to remind herself of why she does not want to return to that lifestyle.

“I can’t imagine if I had actually stayed on the streets. It would have been so much worse for my mental state. People don’t care [about the homeless]. You have to find your way by yourself, unless you’re really lucky and find someone who does care,” said Moreira.

Other students wanted to put themselves in someone else’s shoes for a night.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a feel for what it’s like to be homeless. It’s so easy to become homeless these days.” said Carrie Couture, a junior government major. “With one little mistake, you can lose everything.”

Couture said that although she was hoping to legitimately feel what it was like to be homeless, she felt that the sleep-out did not fulfill her wishes.

“It just seems like a camp-out right now. I can’t imagine what it would be like without food, or the freedom of knowing I could go back home,” said Couture.

Buss agreed, saying the atmosphere was like an “outdoor slumber party,” and that there was “only so much reality about this event.”

Still, he said he hopes students would gain even a vague understanding of what it means to be homeless, and most importantly, that they get inspired to do something about the worsening problem.

According to Buss, the average price for a 2-bedroom apartment is $1,300, which means in order for a person to afford housing, he or she would have to make at least $49,000 annually.

With the increasing amount of people living without a permanent residence, Buss said he feels like it is important for people to understand the homeless.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of homeless people. You have to remember that they’re people, too. When a person is ignored and not acknowledged all day long, it isn’t good for their mental health,” said Buss.

Carly Moreira agreed. “There are so many reasons you can end up on the streets,” said Moreira. “I know from personal experience that I don’t want to end up back there. I want to gain empathy and help the people who are there mentally and physically.”