Box City opens students' eyes to Homelessness

Millikin event supports Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Millikin event supports Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

Millikin University students experienced homelessness, firsthand, during Millikin's 8th annual Box City event on Nov. 10. Millikin's Human Service Connection and the Macon County Continuum of Care hosted the event in support of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in an effort to help bring awareness to the local community.

During the event, over 30 Millikin students spent the evening outside in cardboard boxes on Millikin's Miller Quad.

Box City

"This is the fourth year that we've collaborated with the Macon County Continuum of Care," said Dr. Mary Garrison, associate professor of social work at Millikin. "We continue to do this so we can get students involved in very important social issues that are happening in our country. Our goal is to have exposure to a simulation to get a small sense of what it might look like and feel like to experience homelessness."

In its 8th year, Dr. Garrison says Box City has grown into an event where students are educating each other and wanting to engage in the awareness.

"I think the whole foundation is growing and people are connected," Dr. Garrison said. "Each year we try to change it up with different simulations to get some exposure."

Box City

Prior to building their shelters, students were able to have hot soup and sandwiches provided by the Good Samaritan Inn, and stayed warm by huddling around burn barrels.

"I gained a realistic view of homelessness," said Leslie Chandler, a senior human services major from Decatur, Ill. "This was my first immersive experience and it was eye-opening for the students." 

On Saturday, Nov. 11, Box City participants walked to the Salvation Army to take part in a program on homelessness presented by the men's emergency shelter.

Box City

"We talked about how people felt overnight and met with people who live in the shelter, which puts a whole different face on homelessness because you have individuals who might be staying outside, or sheltered, and they shared their experiences which was really impactful for the students," Dr. Garrison said.  

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held each year the week before Thanksgiving. It is a time to share compassion with neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. This year, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is held Nov. 11-19. The week brings greater awareness to the local community and helps promote the national endeavor to end hunger and homelessness.

Box City

Chandler added, "The simulation part of the event was very exciting because we learned about all the resources in the community – that was a key part in the awareness aspect of Box City."

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