Homelessness isn’t always a disheveled man living out of a cardboard box. Sometimes it’s a family that is barely getting by and must sleep in their car to save on rent.
Homelessness can take on many forms.
That’s the message that more than a dozen Queens University of Charlotte students sent on Monday night when they slept in their cars on the university’s quad.
Pat Taft, director of the university’s Center for Active Citizenship, said that Queens organizes a campus-wide service project each semester.
This year, the university decided to participate in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, which started Saturday. Taft said she hopes participation becomes an annual tradition.
Queens University students slept in their car from 9 p.m. Monday to 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in the university’s residential quad.
“It will be rain or shine because if you’re homeless, you don’t get to pick the weather,” said Taft on Monday.
During the event, titled “No Place to Call Home: Sleeping in My Car,” students were allowed to leave their cars as soon as they collected 50 items of food. All of the food will go to the Salvation Army’s women and children’s homeless shelter.
“People never think they’re going to be in this situation. They always think that people who are homeless are people who are substance abusers and things like that,” said Queens University senior Gelianny Esponda, 21, who participated in the event. “But a lot of times, these families simply lack affordable housing and are heavily affected by unemployment. In reality, any of us could be homeless.”
Taft saw first-hand just how much the issue of homelessness resonated with students. Soon after the university announced the “No Place to Call Home” event, a student visited her office to tell Taft that as a high school student, she once had to sleep in her car for two weeks because of family drama.
“The reality that you’ll have to sleep in a car is closer to home than sleeping in a cardboard box for these students,” said Taft.
Before the event began on Monday night, Esponda said she anticipated that sleeping in her car for one night would be eye-opening for her.
“I’ve never really slept in a car except when traveling from point A to B,” said Esponda. “It’s not easy. It will probably be cold. I’ll just be experiencing that for one night. I can only imagine people who have to do that for weeks, who don’t have a place to live.”
But more than just a social experiment, student Adam Raby, who also participated, said he hopes that the homelessness event encourages others to consider the underlying causes of homelessness so that they can affect positive change in their community.
“I hope more people show up to learn than to be entertained,” said Raby on Monday afternoon. “I hope the underlying causes are looked at instead of ‘Oh, it’s an event where people sleep in their cars.’”
By Elisabeth Arriero
704-777-7070; Twitter: @earriero
Photo: Davie Hinshaw – firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/11/13/3662741/queens-students-sleep-in-cars.html#storylink=cpy
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