Thursday, April 14, 2011

UIS students create Box City to raise homeless awareness

Students at the University of Illinois Springfield created cardboard shelters and slept on the quad on April 13, 2011 in an effort to educate fellow students about homelessness.

The cardboard build was part of the annual UIS Springfest celebration, a week-long event where students compete in a variety of fun and educational competitions.

The only thing the students were allowed to bring with them was a blanket and a flashlight. No electronic devices were allowed and points were awarded based on how many students spent the night.

“They’re probably going to have fun, but also at the same time they are going to be out in the elements,” said Jacob Stodgel, student co-chair of the Springfest committee. “They are going to have to be out here the whole night to get the points.”

Students know homeless living on the streets have it much worse than they do sleeping on the campus quad, but they hope this bring awareness to the problem.

“We’ll have a firsthand experience, not quite as authentic as it could be, but I think it will open up our eyes a little bit,” said John Bauman, a junior Computer Science major.

Criminal Justice and Psychology major Meredith Quarello feels the homeless are often forgotten. She realizes homelessness is a growing problem in Springfield and across the nation.

“I think it’s something that is really overlooked, because all of us are so fortunate to be able to come to college and have those opportunities. I think it’s something we really overlook in society,” said Quarello.

The students were given 11 hours to build their shelters, which could only be made from cardboard and duct tape. Decorations were also allowed, but they could not support the structure.

“We went to Lowe’s, hardware stores, television stores and things like that. We have a few 80 inch TV boxes, which are huge,” said Bauman.

The sleep out on the quad began with students hearing from members of the Springfield organization Homeless United for Change (HUC). The “Faces of the Homeless Panel” featured individuals who are or have been homeless sharing their stories.

“I think this is an amazing thing we’re doing, because it’s unfathomable for many students,” said Julia Hancock, a sophomore Clinical Laboratory Science major.

This was the first time the Box City event has been part of the UIS Springfest celebration. The event was sponsored by the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center and the Student Activities Committee (SAC).

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